Must-watch match-ups

France player Benjamin Pavard (centre) during a training session in Kazan, Russian Federation, on June 29, 2018.
France player Benjamin Pavard (centre) during a training session in Kazan, Russian Federation, on June 29, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Les Bleus have never beaten Argentina in two attempts at the World Cup, with La Albiceleste coming out 2-1 winners over the Europeans in their last Cup meeting at the group stage in 1978. The South Americans went on to lift the trophy at home before adding their second title in 1986. Their last encounter ended in a 2-0 win for Argentina in a 2009 friendly in Marseille.

The hosts can draw strength from their 3-3 draw with La Roja last November in a friendly in St Petersburg, but it will be a huge upset if they manage to advance. Spain have never lost to the Russians in six matches, and beat them twice (4-1 in the group stage, 3-0 in semi-finals) at Euro 2008, which Spain went on to win. It was their last meeting in a competitive tournament.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2018, with the headline 'Must-watch match-ups'. Print Edition | Subscribe