'Stressed' Messi Will Shine For Argentina, Says Zabaleta

Posted June 26, 2018

Even a win may not be enough for Argentina, who are bottom of the group - behind Croatia (six points), Nigeria (three) and Iceland (one).

Nigeria, second in the group with three points, need to win to guarantee their progress but could also go through with a draw if Iceland do not beat Croatia.

Croatia, however, has already qualified as group winners.

Under-fire Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli is bullish over Argentina's hopes of keeping their World Cup dream alive with victory over Nigeria and challenged them to write "a new page in the history of the national squad" in St Petersburg.

In the evening, they watched reigning world champions Germany come from behind to defeat Sweden with a last-gasp victor in added time.

"The happiest I saw Lionel Messi when I played alongside him for Argentina was in 2012 - he scored a hat-trick against Brazil in NY, and he played the whole game with freedom and a smile on his face", he wrote in his BBC Sport column.

"It's been a very hard week after that defeat, which was painful for us", he said.

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Iceland will mostly rely on Gylfi Sigurdsson, their highest-profile player, who missed a late penalty against Nigeria and a goal could have pulled his team back into the game.

Worse was to come as Messi abruptly announced his global retirement following a penalty shootout loss to Chile, Argentina's second Copa America final defeat in two years, citing frustration at the way the game was run in the country.

Nigeria made no changes to the team that beat Iceland 2-0, with coach Gernot Rohr signalling his intent to attack rather than sit back and defend.

The Argentine playmaker has enjoyed perhaps the greatest club career possible at FC Barcelona where he is the all-time topscorer and has won every club trophy there is domestically, continentally and globally.

All eyes will be on Messi as Argentina seeks to avoid the prospect of an early elimination.

"For the good of Argentina, I am sure Lionel Messi will be touching the ball a lot more than in our previous match". If it´s the Eurovision song contest we always think we´re going to win it, even though we never do.

Argentina are under pressure after two poor performances and staring at their first group stage exit since the dark days of 2002.