Lionel Messi's 31st birthday marked with life-size chocolate sculpture

Dean Simpson
June 26, 2018

Messi missed a penalty in his country's opening 1-1 draw against Iceland in Group D and cut an increasingly forlorn figure as they unravelled to 3-0 defeat against Croatia last week.

Euro 2016 heroes Iceland can still dream of progress to the knockout rounds but they must beat Croatia and hope the other result goes their way.

Nigeria moved into second place in Group D behind already qualified Croatia by beating Iceland 2-0 thanks to an Ahmed Musa double.

Nigerian defender Brian Idowu admitted he would love Messi's shirt as a memento, but also wants to send Argentina packing.

Argentina's head coach Jorge Sampaoli attends the official press conference at the St. Petersburg stadium ahead of their crucial clash against Nigeria on Tuesday.

Messi was pictured with his head in his hand prior to kick-off against Croatia and Zabaleta has been concerned by his demeanour in Russian Federation.

"The happiest I saw Lionel Messi when I played alongside him for Argentina was in 2012 - he scored a hat-trick against Brazil in NY, and he played the whole game with freedom and a smile on his face", Zabaleta revealed.

Coach Jorge Sampaoli during a training session of Argentina at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Bronnitsy, Russia, Saturday, June 23, 2018.

He was encouraged by Nigeria's German coach Gernot Rohr to return to his old club in Russian Federation on loan in January to get more game time ahead of the World Cup, a move Musa acknowledges has been vital.

But if they manage to win the game against Croatia, which is highly unlikely, then it will be another uphill struggle for La Albiceleste.

"We need to figure out how I would fit on the team because, as you said, I used to play in the same position he plays and lately I have been used to playing in that position". He switched formations - to a shape that didn't suit Lionel Messi - and his personnel.

"So obviously I think we could work together", said Dybala last week, as per FourFourTwo.

For such a big game, the 31-year-old had more or less half the impact as he is used to, touching the ball 49 times in 90 minutes compared to the 85 and 81 times in the most recent matches versus Atletico and Real Madrid, respectively.

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