France manager Didier Deschamps has said that he hopes to see his players “neutralise” Lionel Messi in Saturday’s World Cup last-16 tie against Argentina.
The Barcelona superstar showed his quality once again on Tuesday evening as La Albiceleste scraped their way into the knockout rounds with a 2-1 win over Nigeria.
Messi scored an impressive opener for Argentina at the Krestovsky Stadium, controlling Ever Banega’s lofted pass and tucking home to take his international goals tally to 65.
Speaking to reporters ahead of this weekend’s opening last-16 match, Deschamps confessed that stopping the five-time Ballon d’Or winner will be no easy task.
“Messi is Messi,” he said. “Look at his stats – 65 goals in 127 matches, it’s that straightforward. Hopefully, we’d like to mark and neutralise him, but he can make the difference with very little.
“When you play Argentina and Messi, there are several ways to limit his impact, at least. But their team is highly experienced, we talk about Messi, but [Javier] Mascherano has lots of caps, so is used to the pressure.
“We have a lot of inexperienced players, it’s not an excuse, it’s reality. We’ll do our utmost for things to go well tomorrow.”
France and Argentina will be facing each other for the 12th time, but they have never previously met in a World Cup knockout tie.