France just knows it's going to get Messi against Argentina

Saturday, 30 Jun, 2018

That is how Argentina's qualification for the knockout stages of the 2018 FIFA World Cup can aptly be summed up.

Despite many penalties converted, top stars, Messi famously missed from the spot in action versus Iceland, while Cristiano Ronaldo failed to convert in the crucial last group match for Portugal against Iran.

"Well, I remember that point in time, but everything I mentioned to the players is personal and I don't think it's for the public domain, it was a simple exchange I had with a player", Sampaoli said.

Midfielder Ever Banega provided a great link up with Messi, spraying an inch-perfect pass for Messi's opener whilst controlling possession with his passing ability and creativity in the middle of the pitch.

The coach said France's characteristics of quick ball recovery and pace on the break through Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud would make them particularly unsafe if Argentina were unable to dominate possession.

"After the first game [against Iceland] I gave you a good luck amulet that my wife gave me, I don't know if you threw it away or something", the reporter asked following Argentina's win over Nigeria.

Following Argentina's nail-biting victory over the Nigerians on Tuesday, one that helped keep their campaign alive and setup a Round of 16 clash against Group C toppers France, the same reporter asked Messi if he recollected anything about the lucky ribbon that he gave him after the Ireland draw.

Messi told everyone that it was either life or death.

The 31-year-old was being interviewed after the Iceland match, when Argentine reporter Rama Pantorotto from Telefe Noticias offered him a lucky charm.

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. "They'll say I'm an excellent manager if we win, if we lose they'll say I'm very bad".

"I'm sure France has a plan to neutralise Leo and we have a plan to get the best out of him, let's see whose plan works best", he added. It's a team that will play the match with a lot of heart.

He has faced intense scrutiny at this World Cup, especially after the 3-0 defeat by Croatia. Otherwise, we'll suffer because we have the best player in the world and the other players need to benefit from that.

"He has a special ability to see the game that is only possible for a genius and a lot of the time it is hard to be at the level of a genius like him".