KAZAN, Russia: Didier Deschamps may be tempted to execute a "no Messi, no Argentina" strategy when preparing for Saturday`s round of 16 clash but the France manager must also be mindful of getting the most out of his own marquee players.
France`s smooth advance to the knockout rounds with two wins and a draw has made them favourites to beat an Argentina side who were thrashed by Croatia and needed a late winner against Nigeria to book their place.
It also glossed over a clutch of underwhelming group phase performances by Les Bleus, whose galaxy of young stars have yet to truly shine on the biggest stage.
Messi, his World Cup legacy and Argentina`s over-reliance on the Barcelona forward, however, have dominated the narrative leading into Saturday`s clash at Kazan Arena.
At his news conference on Friday, Deschamps was asked repeatedly how France would stop Messi, and he answered patiently until a fourth such query triggered a small sigh of exasperation. "This player is outstanding so we have to take a number of precautions," the former World Cup-winning captain said.
Starving Messi of the ball by winning the midfield battle would seem the obvious starting point for Deschamps` precaution-taking.
Croatia managed to blanket Messi by having Ivan Strinic and Marcelo Brozovica screen behind midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, and take turns at running with the Argentine danger man.
N`Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi may be pressed into similar stopping roles, and Deschamps could elect to revert to a more conservative 4-2-3-1 formation with Matuidi covering the left wing rather than a more attacking option such as Messi`s Barcelona team mate Ousmane Dembele.
Concentrating too much on Messi, however, could also prove stifling for France`s attack which has shown itself to be a collection of expensive moving parts yet to move in synch.
Deschamps sacrificed a golden chance for them to gel by shaking up his side for the 0-0 draw against Denmark, which secured qualification but did little to improve team cohesion.
Another shake-up looms for the Argentina match, with Deschamps unlikely to have teenage juggernaut Kylian Mbappe starting on the bench again or to rest Paul Pogba.
Antoine Griezmann`s form is another concern and Deschamps has yet to find a combination that can get the best from the striker.
With no clear sense of direction being set by Deschamps` selections, it may be up to the players to find their own way to deal with Messi.