FIFA World Cup 2018: Lionel Messi and Argentina take on France in Round of 16; Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal face Uruguay

The 32-team field in the World Cup has been cut in half, and starting Saturday, every match will end with someone going home.

France play Lionel Messi and Argentina at the Kazan Arena in Saturday's early game, followed by Uruguay and Luis Suarez against Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi. The winners of both these matches will meet in the quarter-finals on 6 July.

Argentina's Lionel Messi, right, talks to coach Jorge Sampaoli during a training session. AP

Argentina's Lionel Messi, right, talks to coach Jorge Sampaoli during a training session. AP

Here’s a look at what you can expect on Saturday at the World Cup in Russia:

Round of 16: France vs Argentina (7.30 pm)

After playing the most soporific game of the World Cup so far, France will feature in a seismic Last 16 clash of former champions with a resurgent Argentina on Saturday, and they will have to drastically improve if they are to stop Messi.

This year's Argentina team has shown signs of dysfunction and an outsize dependence on Messi, who even appeared to be giving embattled coach Jorge Sampaoli advice about in-game substitutions. Argentina allowed at least one goal in all of their matches, including a dispiriting 3-0 loss to Croatia. Now they must find a way to stifle France, who have a greater variety of attacking talent.

France have their own problems. Sampaoli’s side may have disappointed, but they showed more in one game than France in three, scoring only two goals in open play.

Les Blues have lacked cohesion and their attacking stars have yet to shine. Their victories against Australia and Peru were far from decisive. Then France and Denmark kicked the ball around disinterestedly in a mutually beneficial 0-0 draw that allowed both teams to advance.

France have never lost in the World Cup Round of 16, making it through in 1986, 1998 (when they won the title), 2006 and 2014.

Round of 16: Uruguay vs Portugal (11.30 pm)

Ronaldo has not been shy about embracing what could be his final World Cup, scoring four goals and carrying his team to victories in their first two matches. And Ronaldo's Barcelona rival Uruguay's Suarez — who bit an opponent at the previous World Cup — has shined in Russia while keeping his teeth to himself.

Uruguay's defence might be a bigger problem for Ronaldo and Portugal when the teams meet in Sochi.

La Celeste have yet to allow a goal, their back line anchored by captain Diego Godin and his Atletico Madrid teammate Jose Maria Gimenez, who missed the squad's final group game against Russia with a thigh injury. Gimenez has returned to training and could be available to play against Portugal and his familiar Real Madrid adversary.

The last time Uruguay allowed a goal was in a 4-2 victory over Bolivia in World Cup qualifying last October.

But Portugal have lost only one out of 27 competitive matches since Fernando Santos took over as coach in September 2014.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jun 30, 2018 10:16 AM

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