Sampaoli to Messi: "Should I bring Agüero on?"

Lionel Messi-led Argentina's struggles in Russia come after their pre-tournament preparations were wrecked by controversy and poor form coupled with a reliance on a top-heavy limited squad

Argentina defender Federico Fazio believes Lionel Messi showed a different attitude in their 2-1 win over Nigeria last Tuesday.

There had been a widespread hope in Nigeria that the team could progress from Group D, which was widely considered to be one of the toughest in the tournament since it brought together Argentina, Croatia and Iceland alongside Nigeria.

But, speaking on the eve of that second-round clash with France, Sampaoli said: "I remember that point in time but everything I say to my players is personal and I will not divulge what was said".

After bringing back the smiles on the faces of thousands of Argentina supporters with his first goal of FIFA World Cup 2018, Lionel Messi decided to make the day all the more special for one Argentinian journalist following the team's victory over Nigeria.

But Messi will keep his place in the team and manager Jorge Sampaoli says the five-time Ballon d'Or victor will deliver a better performance. "You put it on your leg?", to which the footballer replied, "I wanted to say thank you".

Sampaoli came under huge fire after Argentina drew 1-1 with Iceland in their first match in Russian Federation and were thrashed 3-0 in their second by Croatia, all amid reports of unrest in their camp.

"We have complete faith in our abilities", said Sampaoli.

As the game was moving towards 1-1 draw, both sides tried and tested every possible move to take a lead in the second half.

The former Chile and Sevilla coach survived, but still there are suggestions he will not be allowed to retain his post after the World Cup. Messi wore it all three games, they win the last one, and you can bet he'll be wearing it on Saturday against France in the round of 16.

"Most of us know him because either we have played against him or play with him (at Barcelona)", reserve goalkeeper Mandanda said.

Of the 23 players in the squad, 22 have been given playing time in Russian Federation so far and it is a measure of how deep their talent pool is that reserve midfielder Milan Badelj was named man-of-the-match against Iceland.

"Africa is going to be successful one day but we need to think again how we approach these big competitions", he told the BBC in his role as a TV pundit. I've seen him sad and I've seen him happy, like he was today.

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