Mascherano: Messi is desperate to help Argentina

Moscow confectioners build life-size chocolate Messi for Argentine striker's birthday

Moscow confectioners build life-size chocolate Messi for Argentine striker's birthday

As Argentina and their star player Lionel Messi fight to stay in the World Cup, Diego Maradona has sent a message of support to the Barcelona forward.

Argentina must win their final group game against Nigeria on Tuesday to stand any chance of progressing to the knockout stages, while Portugal need just a point against Iran on Monday to advance.

Maradona was seen to be extremely frustrated in the closing minutes of their latest game as he watched his side get picked apart by goals from Ante Rebic, Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.

Argentina almost missed the World Cup altogether, needing a Messi hat-trick in the final qualifying match just to punch a ticket to Russian Federation.

"To Leo (.) I would like to speak with you and tell you that you are not to blame for anything. You would be harming the team".

Sampaoli, who took over a year ago with Argentina struggling during World Cup qualifying, drew harsh criticism for his tactics in the 3-0 loss to Croatia. And Argentina is very unhappy.

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"He is a human being who has his frustrations because things haven't worked out, but so are we all".

"I still believe a lot in these players that have taken us to three finals", he added, referring to one World Cup and two Copa America finals. But he didn't clarify what would happen afterward since Sampaoli has a contract that runs through the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Messi, 31, is yet to score or provide an assist at the showpiece event, while he had a penalty saved during a 1-1 draw with Iceland.

"It is the most critical situation I have experienced, along with the Ecuador game", said Argentina midfielder Lucas Biglia on Sunday.

While Argentina's World Cup may not be going as well as they had hoped, a birthday is always cause of celebration - at least to the residents of the small Russian town of Bronnitsy where the South Americans have based themselves for the tournament.

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