Sampaoli: Messi not picking Argentina team

Sunday, 01 Jul, 2018

Messi scored four goals and converted his spot-kick in a semi-final shootout against the Netherlands to lead Argentina to a first World Cup final in 24 years. The problem, though, for me as a France supporter is that maybe their last-gasp qualification will inject a belief into this Argentina squad.

Before the tournament, France were widely tipped for a run to the final but they have failed to click so far, scoring just three times in three matches. The expectation was high and so far Messi was on the low, possibly immersed in dancing to Flowking Stone's song, "Go Low".

Ronaldo on the other hand started his tournament with a hat-trick against Spain but has slipped behind England's Harry Kane in the race for the Golden Boot after seeing his penalty saved in Portugal's 1-1 draw with Iran. Obviously I would love to win the World Cup.

"No one in worldwide football feels the kind of pressure that Argentine players feel and I think we dealt with it pretty well".

The hotel is the same one that Portugal stayed in last summer, while taking part in the Confederations Cup, and it seems their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo - who just so happens to be Messi's rival - made an impression on the people living there. Messi was seen rubbing his forehead vigorously [if not viciously] with a genuine look of concern [if not pressure] running all over his face.

After almost five and a half hours of football, it was the first goal Uruguay had let in at this World Cup - indeed it was the first they had conceded in 2018. In that game against Iceland and for the very first time, I saw pressure write its name all over Lionel Messi. Quite what Brazilian legend Ronaldo, sitting on Maradona's right, made of it all is anybody's guess, though!

This will be Argentina's 15th game under coach Jorge Sampaoli and it could be the first time he has named an unchanged side. However, the little detail that makes all the difference is that Uruguay are much better in defending than Portugal.

The 91-time worldwide said he would love to see Argentina meet Spain, where he played club football for Barcelona and Sevilla, in the World Cup final.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) - Is he the GOAT?

He said: "I am sure France has a plan to neutralise Leo - but we have our own plan to make his life easier". These two traits of a great team has been non-existent in this Argentinian side. For Messi, it meant he still has never won a major global title with Argentina.

France and Barca defender Samuel Umtiti, however, spoke about Messi's difficulties with Argentina on Thursday.

Sergio Aguero gave Argentina late hope but they ran out of time and head home after a rollercoaster ride in Russian Federation that ultimately ends in bitter disappointment for the two-times former champions.

There was more talk of working as a team over in Bronnitsy, where Argentina have settled at the World Cup.