'Stressed' Messi will be Argentina's main man, Zabaleta assures

Bakers of Altufyevo Confectionery prepare a life-size chocolate sculpture of Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi to top a cake for the celebration of his upcoming birthday in Moscow

The Manchester City striker, who is now set to be axed for their final group game against Nigeria, put his sorrows aside as he joined the squad and celebrated Messi's special day.

Javier Mascherano has denied all reports that relations between Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli and the national team squad have broken down.

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.

Ahmed Musa, Super Eagles two goals hero in Nigeria's defeat of Iceland at Volgograd, on Friday said the game against Argentina will be a tough one for the opponents.

Argentina would also advance if they win 2-0 and Iceland 1-0 - both sides would have four points and minus one goal difference, but the two-time world champions would have three goals to Iceland's two and progress on goals scored.

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

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He told the London Mirror, "It means so much because for Argentina the World Cup is special - and for me too."I've always had the dream of watching me raise the World Cup".

Argentina's do-or-die clash against Nigeria on Tuesday can be a launch pad for the team in Russian Federation following a woeful start to the World Cup, insisted defiant coach Jorge Sampaoli.

"His body language was completely the opposite before the Croatia game". The players reportedly lobbied Argentina's federation to fire coach Jorge Sampaoli or strip him of lineup- and tactic-selecting powers last week following their heavy loss to Croatia.

As per the officials, Messi will be receiving a replica of the FIFA World Cup made from traditional Russian Gzhel ceramics, as a gift on his birthday from the Moscow region.

"I think scoring against Argentina isn't that hard for me", he smiled after his man-of-the-match performance in Volgograd on Friday. He switched formations - to a shape that didn't suit Lionel Messi - and his personnel. As a player myself, I know that if you go into a game and you don't really enjoy it then it is very hard to play well.

In their hour of need, Argentina need Messi's best once more. Argentina looks like they have given up hope while Nigeria seem like a side full of confidence.

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