Argentina rally behind Lionel Messi ahead of key Croatia clash

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi

Asked repeatedly about Messi, Sampaoli said the disappointing start against Iceland was not the fault of his star player, despite the penalty miss.

"When Argentina don't win, we attribute responsibility to Leo".

"There were lots of factors of irritation for not winning against Iceland. The team will be together when things go well and when things go badly". "You can see this clearly, I don't believe that he doesn't want to play for Argentina".

However, Croatia coach Zlatko Dali says his side have "nothing to lose".

Neither game will be remembered as a classic encounter, but a win for Kovacic's side against Argentina could potentially see them through to the knockout stages as group winners.

"I told him "This is the World Cup of 40 million (Argentinians)".

"We have nothing to lose in that game". 'With Leo, Argentina have only lost three or four games.

Croatia will be without Nikola Kalinic, who was sent home after reportedly refusing to come on as a substitute against Nigeria, with a back injury cited as the reason.

This will be the fifth meeting between Argentina and Croatia, with the South Americans winning twice to Croatia's one (D1).

Their next opponents Croatia comfortably dispatched Nigeria 2-0 in their first game, putting themselves in pole position to go through.

Argentina's brilliant forward and captain Lionel Messi would love to make amends in their World Cup Group D match after missing a penalty in the previous match.

"It will be hard to play against Messi, I hope that tomorrow he doesn't enjoy the match".

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi reacts at the end of the Russian Federation 2018 World Cup Group D football match between Argentina and Iceland at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow on June 16, 2018.

Croatia have scored in each of their last five World Cup games, their longest such streak in the competition.

With Ever Banega starting on the bench against Iceland, Argentina put in an insipid display for most of the first half and were able to pressure only late in the second half after he came on. Croatia are so strong in midfield.

Those who followed closely Argentina's shaky qualification for the World Cup were not so shocked by the result against Iceland, and do not expect them to roll over Croatia despite their abundance of individual talent.

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