Final salvation salvo for Argentina


Lionel Messi and Argentina hit the training ground on Saturday with renewed hope of qualifying for the World Cup last 16.

Reports had suggested that the Argentina Football Association (AFA) will sack Sampaoli before their final Group D match with Nigeria because of a fall-out with the players.

To say Argentina has failed to live up to expectations in this World Cup would be a blasphemous understatement.

Such frustrations have been taken into account by the Argentine FA and, while Sampaoli will not leave his job immediately, it is reported that he will be dismissed from the post once Argentina's World Cup campaign draws to a close.

Argentina´s forward Lionel Messi stretches during a training session at the team´s base camp in Bronnitsy, on June 23, 2018, during Russian Federation 2018 World Cup.

Fellow Juventus forward Paulo Dybala came off the bench during the second half of Thursday's humiliating defeat to Croatia.

His first goal against Iceland earned comparisons with Dennis Bergkamp's injury-time wonder goal for the Netherlands that knocked Argentina out of the 1998 World Cup quarter-finals.

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Their first game showcased a big clash of styles when they played Iceland. "Everyone wants to win and no one can make any gifts, even if we like him so much". The Albiceleste must beat Nigeria and then rely on Iceland failing to beat already-qualified Croatia.

Dybala hasn't started a game for Argentina this year and is yet to score an worldwide goal since making his debut in 2015.

Sampaoli said he had been made to feel like a "criminal" by critics, but that there was no mutiny within the squad and he was still a coach "with enthusiasm and a clear idea what I want to achieve". "When you look at the facts in the Portugal game, it's totally unfair".

Iceland's older hands such as centre back Kari Arnasson will be keen to avenge the playoff defeat that saw the islanders miss out on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and they will have to call on their famous never-say-die spirit if they hope to advance. Denmark coach Age Hareide criticized France before the World Cup when he told a Danish newspaper the squad was "nothing special".

On Saturday, most players trained with their heads down, while Sampaoli asked them to run for only a few minutes.

"We found out by chance that it was Messi's birthday on June 24", said chief confectioner Daria Malkina. "We are all equal, we are Mexican and we need to love each other just the way we are", said Cinthya Garcia, 26, a saleswoman.