Published: Tue, June 26, 2018
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

'Stressed' Messi Will Shine For Argentina, Says Zabaleta

'Stressed' Messi Will Shine For Argentina, Says Zabaleta

The South Americans are winless at the World Cup, Messi has yet to score a goal, and a victory against Nigeria won't guarantee a spot in the round of 16.

The South Americans are on the verge of a group-stage exit in Russian Federation after a shock 1-1 draw with Iceland and a thumping 3-0 defeat to Croatia.

After being held to a draw by Iceland and humiliated by Croatia, Argentina's World Cup could already have been all but over. If Iceland wins, Argentina is out and Messi's global career might be over.

Jorge Sampaoli, with the blessing of Messi, pleaded for patience as he was drafted in as Argentina's third coach in two years.

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"We lost very badly, they really humiliated us this time", said 22-year-old Joaquin, at a fanzone in Buenos Aires.

"It is not nice to say we have a reserve team".

The Argentine playmaker has enjoyed perhaps the greatest club career possible at FC Barcelona where he is the all-time topscorer and has won every club trophy there is domestically, continentally and globally. They were on the brink of missing out on the finals for the first time since 1970 before Messi's hat-trick against Ecuador dragged them over the line. "But in football there is no mercy, there is no pity".

Even if Iceland claim a first ever World Cup victory, Argentina could still progress on goal difference. Sampaoli is struggling to control his squad and impose his methods and tactical demands; the coach caused confusion by switching tactics and formations vs. Croatia after a 1-1 opening-game draw with Iceland.

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Joao agreed: "It doesn't all depend on Neymar's haircut, but it helps, I believe". I am not specifically talking about the risk to Neymar .

His most recent display was truly bad, as he was powerless in Argentina's 3-0 loss to Croatia, and this may well be because he is "stressed, unhappy, and treated like a loser" in his own country, according to a guest column published by his former Argentina teammate Pablo Zabaleta, for the BBC. It's part of a disappointing global run in which Messi's only medal with Argentina came 10 years ago at the Summer Olympics.

Messi nearly single-handedly led the squad to the World Cup final four years ago and consecutive Copa America finals in the following two years, but all three ended in defeat.

"If he had the ball less than usual it's because Argentina didn't dominate the match as we did against Iceland". However, in all likeliness they will finish first given that they not only need to lose to Iceland, but Nigeria have to beat Argentina, and then there's the small matter of a five goal swing.

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There are lots expected of this Nigerian side and they will know that a draw should be enough to get them a place in the round of 16.

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