Messi's last chance for national glory slips away in Kazan

Messi's last chance for national glory slips away in Kazan

Messi's last chance for national glory slips away in Kazan

Isco is also selected in midfield, with the Real Madrid man being one of the standout performers at the tournament so far, while Brazil's Philippe Coutinho completes the midfield trio, having contributed to three goals in three matches.

In the hours that followed La Albiceleste's opening 1-1 World Cup Group D draw with Iceland, Jorge Sampaoli had already been warned by Diego Maradona that the Argentina coach may not be allowed back to their homeland should the national team continue playing in such a lackluster manner.

Many jokes poured in on social media regarding Argentina's unavoidable "pleasure" of looking at the winking Ronaldo from their hotel windows.

That set the scene for 19-year-old Mbappe, who netted two goals in four second-half minutes to become the first teenager to score at least twice in a World Cup match since Pele in 1958.

Unfortunately, Messi showed he is all too human, particularly when things go against him in an Argentina shirt.

With hardly any support from his team-mates, Argentina slumped to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Croatians and were staring down the barrel of the gun, facing being eliminated during the early stages. The bigger picture is the team; the potency of its tactical system and the efficiency of its style of play. "They'll say I'm an excellent manager if we win, if we lose they'll say I'm very bad".

You have to go back to 2002 for the last time Argentina did not at least reach the quarter-finals of a World Cup so the pressure is well and truly on them.

But, speaking on the eve of that second-round clash with France, Sampaoli said: "I remember that point in time but everything I say to my players is personal and I will not divulge what was said".

"France is certainly a candidate to win [the World Cup]".

"We're preparing for the game in the best way and we've to get used to being on top and winning", said Argentina defender Federico Fazio, with a bruise under his right eye after a training ground incident, sitting alongside team-mate Giovani Lo Celso on Thursday.

In the week of his 31st birthday, Messi was again a largely anonymous figure as they lost 4-3 to France in a thrilling last-16 match in Kazan. "Obviously what we want to avoid is the drawing of lots", said Colin Smith, FIFA's chief competitions and events officer.

Argentina need to find a way to take advantage of Messi, one of their greatest ever players, just like Portugal have done with Ronaldo. My hair stands on end just thinking about that moment.

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