How France relax behind the scenes as Argentina stand in way of World Cup dream

Alphonse Areola is unbeatable at the moment. Not so much in goal, as the France No. 3 goalkeeper will surely not play in this World Cup, but rather at the basketball shooting hoops arcade game that has been installed in the French base camp. The Parisian's record is an astonishing 163 points.

No one has been able to get close to him, not even Antoine Griezmann or Paul Pogba -- the other two NBA fanatics in the squad. In the vestibules of the Hilton Garden Inn hotel of Kostrovo, 70km north-west of Moscow, where the France squad have been staying since they landed in Russia three weeks ago, the two friends are never far apart.

Their bedrooms are next to each other. In his, "Grizi" has installed his PlayStation 4 and FIFA 18 tournaments are happening all the time when the squad aren't training -- Kylian Mbappe and the host himself are usually the winners. However, when it comes down to Fortnite (the other video game Les Bleus are mad about, alongside Mario Kart on the Nintendo Switch), Griezmann has no rival, except perhaps Adil Rami who also excels at it.

For a long time, Griezmann was also the boss at Football Manager, the football management simulation game. It is usually in Pogba's bedroom that the fans of the game gather: Blaise Matuidi is doing well at the moment with Liverpool, who he has taken to the Champions League final; Ousmane Dembele is managing Arsenal and has just won the domestic treble after buying Germany and Leverkusen winger Julian Brandt -- "the best player in the game" according to him -- for €85 million. For the record, Griezmann plays with Villarreal rather than his club Atletico Madrid.

Outside of his midfield duties, Pogba has two big roles in France's squad and they both have nothing to do with football.

The first is to provide a barber. He has already flown in his personal one, Ahmed Alsanawi, three times from London since the beginning of the tournament. Alsanawi was last in Moscow on Thursday, and when he comes he also looks after Mbappe, Djibril Sidibe, Benjamin Mendy or Presnel Kimpembe.

The second is to be the main DJ of the squad. Whether it is French rappers (Keblack, Maitre Gims, Naza), US hip hop artists (Drake, Kendrick Lamar, DJ Khaled), latin trap, reggaeton, or some more eclectic stuff, Pogba knows it all and plays it all.

Away from the video games and music, the older guys in the squad also have things to take their minds off the pressure of a World Cup.

Captain and No. 1 goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is an old school kind of guy: he plays scrabble on his phone, like striker Olivier Giroud, and is very good at boules, also like Giroud.

However, neither can come close to beating coach Didier Deschamps -- who is unbeaten so far in this World Cup. Deschamps doesn't have much downtime but when he does, he likes reading Tal Ben-Shaham's best seller "Choose the life you want." In fact, he's given the book to each of his players.

Not that many would have finished reading it though. In general the squad prefer movies or TV series. Black Panther for Rami; "La casa de papel" and "El Chapo" for Kimpembe who is clearly making the most of his Netflix subscription; Lucas Hernandez, one of the most sociable players in the squad, also likes "Vikings."

There are also host of players who like to play cards. Hernandez, Florian Thauvin, Thomas Lemar, Nabil Fekir and N'Golo Kante, mostly play Uno. But Perudo, the dice game where you bluff your opponents, is very popular.

A lot about the dynamic of this France squad can be explained by the layout of the dressing room. Before the game against Denmark at the Luzhniki stadium, this is how it was set up:

On the right hand side, the three keepers, Lloris, Steve Mandanda and Areola, are sat next to each other. As a close group of their own, they always get ready together.

In the left corner, Dembele and Mbappe are naturally together; they are best friends, they have been for years now. While Benjamin Pavard, Rami and Giroud complete that side.

On the opposite side, in front of them, Corentin Tolisso was sat in between Blaise Matuidi and Kimpembe, with Thauvin also there.

Finally, on the longest stretch of the dressing room, the three quieter members of the side -- Kante, Steven Nzonzi and Sidibe -- were next to each other. Griezmann sat between his two closest allies: Hernandez on his right and Pogba on his left. Then it was Mendy, Samuel Umtiti and his mate Raphael Varane. Lemar and Fekir (those two get on very well) were also on this side.

Despite the embarrassing 0-0 draw against Denmark on Tuesday, Deschamps was all smiles in the dressing room. He congratulated his players for topping the group and told them that a new competition begins now and that they will need to raise their game for the knockout stages.

For the first time since the beginning of this World Cup, there was a real sense of celebration among the squad before the players went back to their base to be reunited with their families and dive back into their video games, movies or boules.

Argentina await in the round of 16 on Saturday and to deal with the threat of Lionel Messi and company, France will benefit from being as relaxed as possible.