Lionel Messi's birthday party - in a Russian village field

Tanya Simon
June 25, 2018

Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano insists relations between the players and coach Jorge Sampaoli are not strained after reports of unrest within the team camp.

"We needed Nigeria to give a positive result".

Diego Maradona has requested a meeting with Argentina's players before their final World Cup group game on Tuesday.

Petit, who was part of the French World Cup winning side of 1998, berated Argentina for their start to their campaign in Russian Federation, with their 3-0 defeat against Croatia on Thursday backing up a 1-1 draw against Iceland in their opening game.

"As I said in my TV analysis after Argentina's defeat, they look like a broken team".

The footballer will hope the similarities end there, however, as he has been accused of melting under the intense pressure on his shoulders in Russian Federation after Argentina claimed just one point from their opening two games.

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Along with the Argentina-Nigeria match, Messi fans will also keep their eyes on the Iceland-Croatia match.

What better gift could there be for a larger-than-life footballer than a life-size chocolate sculpture?

"The relationship with the coach is totally normal", Mascherano said at a news conference in Moscow. Saha's nephew and club cofounder Happy said: "We celebrate the birthdays of two icons - Messi and Maradona".

Instead, defeat by Germany set in motion four years of chaos in the worldwide set-up that has brought one of the great footballing nations to its knees and leaves the South Americans staring at a ignominious early exit in Russian Federation. "In football you need help from your team mates - even when you are a great player", the 32-year old said.

According to, Argentina players will pick the squad Tuesday against Nigeria in an all-important match with Sampaoli no longer making decisions.

The team were completely disjointed, discribed by Cesc Fabregas as having five attackers and five defenders with no midfield as Modric controlled the game. "So we can not give up on that dream", said Messi, who turned 31 yesterday.

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