Germany’s 1990 World Cup-winning captain Lothar Matthaus is backing France and Uruguay to see off Argentina and Portugal in their respective round of 16 clashes of the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup on Saturday.
Matthaus stated this as a World Cup analyst for SunSport ahead of Saturday’s games.
“This is the toughest game (France vs Argentina) of the second round. Two former winners, big teams with good players, huge names,” he said.
“It could be a final looking at the teams and the players they have. But neither has played like finalists so far. I have not liked either of them. Argentina are lucky to still be in it and France haven’t played as well as I expected.
“Argentina are not just Lionel Messi. They have Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero. But they are all about Messi. They depend on him.
“If he plays well, they can beat anybody. They can’t beat anybody if he doesn’t.
“France were so boring against Denmark. This is different. And France have the pace and power to hurt Argentina.
“I look at Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe and think they will be crucial, particularly if Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante take a grip in midfield.
“So far they haven’t shown what they are capable of doing. And I haven’t see the right spirit from them.
“Argentina’s biggest problem is Javier Mascherano is simply not what he was.
“He has experience, yes. But he does not have the legs any more.
“France have so much pace, both wide and from the midfield and that speed will be too much for Mascherano — and then the centre of the Argentine defence.
“This is a game with pressure for both sides. But for me there is only one winner and that is France.”
And on the game between Uruguay and Portugal, the legendary German captain said: “The last-16 clash in Sochi today is sure to be another great game.
“I like what I have seen from Uruguay so far, while Portugal came here believing they could win the World Cup.
“Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani are such strong offensive players for Uruguay — while we do not have to talk about Cristiano Ronaldo, just to say he is the Portugal superstar.
“Portugal have not impressed me at all. They are only still in the tournament because of Ronaldo’s four goals.
“The draw with Spain was a great game — but the Spanish were far better.
“Portugal got away with it because of a penalty, a bad mistake by David De Gea and a free-kick.
“But even coach Fernando Santos must know they did not play well — and they were even worse against Morocco and Iran.
“I know they won Euro 2016 playing this way. They got out of their group with three draws and got better — without playing aggressive, attacking football.
“It’s been the same here. Ronaldo is their threat and everybody else defends — yet even then other teams get a lot of chances.
“Uruguay are so tough, so clever, so combative — and Suarez and Cavani can score against anybody.
“They are the only team who have not conceded a goal yet and that is a sign of how good they are at the back.
“The midfield covers well and they know that if they do not concede, they can get a goal from one of their two strikers or from a set-piece.
“Uruguay are my favourites, very much. Portugal can only win if Ronaldo has a great day.”