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Argentina players celebrate Messi's 31st birthday

26 June 2018
Argentina players celebrate Messi's 31st birthday

Romelu Lukaku is lighting up the World Cup finals with four goals for Belgium and Didier Drogba for one could not be happier.

Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano has claimed the team's relationship with coach Jorge Sampaoli is "just like normal" despite rumours of a player revolt at the World Cup.

Defender Brian Idowu, who joined his coach at the news conference, said Nigeria's only choice was to try and bring Messi's World Cup to an end.

Mayor of Bornitsy Viktor Nevolin and a boy cut a birthday cake including a statue depicting Lionel Messi during a party organized by the town of Bronnitsy, where the Argentina football team have their base camp, near Moscow, on June 24, 2018, to celebrate the birthday of Argentina's forward Lionel Messi (statue on cake) during the Russian Federation 2018 World Cup football tournament.

Argentina's football association was quick to deny media reports about the future of Sampaoli, who was strongly criticized for his tactical approach and the formation he put out in Argentina's humiliating 3-0 loss to Croatia on Thursday.

Messi, who will be 35 by the time the 2022 Qatar World Cup comes around his hoping to win a World Cup after coming so close in Brazil 2014 where La Albiceleste were defeated in the final by Germany.

To reach the last 16 on their World Cup debut, Iceland must beat the Croatians and hope Nigeria fail to beat Argentina. If Iceland wins, Argentina is out and Messi's worldwide career might be over.

Tying one's first game at a World Cup doesn't have to be a big deal. Their population of 4m may dwarf that of tonight's opponents Iceland but it is smaller than average for a European nation and minuscule compared to the potential number of players in the two vanquished continental giants in Nigeria and Argentina, which have populations of more than 180m and around 45m respectively.

If Messi felt comfortable as an off-field leader - and a postgame spokesman for the team - he would have pulled himself together, shrugged off the setback, and said something like, "We'll bounce back from this". Both teams enter this game with a chance of making the round of 16 and as a result, I am expecting a great game of football since both sides should be very determined to win.

For Iceland, they will sweat on the fitness of two key players. "But the question for us is not if it's the last World Cup for him", Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr told reporters on Monday.

Aguero was replaced by Higuain during the Croatia match having done very little, but Higuain suffered a similar problem as the team failed to create for him or get Lionel Messi on the ball in risky areas. "It's very hard to replicate what they did but we will do our best to get as close to them as possible".