Wednesday, 26 September, 2018

Argentina handed a final shot at World Cup salvation

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi controls the ball during a training session at the team's base camp in Bronnitsy Argentina handed a final shot at World Cup salvation
Sergio Cook | 26 June, 2018, 19:59

"In the rules it doesn't say if it is (Lionel) Messi or Ronaldo".

Iceland and Croatia previously met in the 2018 World Cup qualification campaign. A loss to Argentina would eliminate Nigeria, regardless of the other result.

But his cabinet of global honours is awash with silver medals of Copa America and World Cup.

Dalic is expected to leave out six players on yellow cards who risk suspension including Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic, while 32-year-old captain Luka Modric and Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren could also be in line for a rest.

His most recent display was truly bad, as he was powerless in Argentina's 3-0 loss to Croatia, and this may well be because he is "stressed, unhappy, and treated like a loser" in his own country, according to a guest column published by his former Argentina teammate Pablo Zabaleta, for the BBC.

"For us it's a momentous game, I think both teams are going to do everything possible to qualify, that makes the match very attractive." he said at his pre-match press conference.

Messi has been photographed moping around a World Cup pitch on multiple occasions. "To see Leo looking so stressed and unhappy at this World Cup was a real worry".

"He is my friend as well as my former team-mate and I felt really sorry for him". So it's simple for Argentina: win and try to win big.

Messi with Pablo Zabaleta during happier times.

Things have not gone to plan for Argentina or Messi this summer. "They see him winning trophies every season with Barcelona - so they expect him to do exactly the same in the national team".

"I think it's in the genes. He turned 31 on Sunday so he is getting older and sometimes, mentally, you can feel exhausted as well", Zabaleta wrote in his BBC Sport column.

"Part of that is down to his history with Argentina".

Argentina will attempt to salvage its World Cup status when it takes on Nigeria on Tuesday evening.

His place in the pantheon of greats is without dispute but the embarrassment of an ugly first round exit tonight in St Petersburg, should the Albiceleste fail to beat Nigeria, would leave a conspicuous blemish on one of the greatest careers the game has known.

Denmark require just a point to join France in the knockout stages, and could even pip Les Bleus to top spot with a victory.

With no Copa America trophy to show, Messi's solitary worldwide accomplishment is the country's gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"In Argentina, that is not enough".

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