Messi must beat France, overcome Maradona

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While Portugal and Argentina could potentially clash in the World Cup quarter-final, the battle between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo is already underway in Kazan, where images of the stars have emerged next to a local hotel.

Sampaoli's side scraped through to the last 16 after they beat Nigeria in the group stage and face a hard task against France, even if they haven't yet hit form themselves. Gimenez has returned to training and could be available to play against Portugal and his familiar Real Madrid adversary.

It may have been a "great escape" for the Argentineans and the players may look happier in the system, but it shouldn't hide the fact that although they improved against Nigeria, a team with Enzo Perez and Javier Mascherano in the engine room probably isn't going to win the World Cup.

While he did manage to contribute two assists in the four games, Messi's dream of winning the World Cup in Russian Federation was over after Kylian Mbappe scored a fantastic brace on Saturday to send Argentina home.

Marcos Rojo, the Argentina defender, volleyed home like a world-class striker in the 86th minute against Nigeria - a goal which kept his team in the tournament and sent the Africans out.

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. There has to be paid special attention to those world-class players but we're ready to play against anyone.

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Then Senegal claimed Africa's first win of this tournament, beating Poland 2-1. Japan and Senegal will be facing off on June 24.

Portugal is still looking for their first World Cup title, but for some reason Ronaldo does not appear to be under the same type of pressure that Messi has to win the elusive trophy.

Senegal's departure, however, means there will be no more fist pump celebrations from Cissee, which went viral on social media, tales of Senegal's fans cleaning up at stadiums and pictures of the team joyously warming up. I can say on authority that Argentina will not win this world cup but it ought not dent Messi's incredible career as a footballer.

Antoine Griezmann gave France the lead from the penalty spot but the South Americans levelled with a sweet hit from Angel Di Maria and edged ahead shortly after half-time through Gabriel Mercado.

Argentina endured a hard group stage at the World Cup, scraping through by the skin of their teeth thanks to an 86th-minute Marcos Rojo goal in a 2-1 win over Nigeria.

Messi has lost three major finals with Argentina in the last four years, including the 2014 World Cup showpiece against Germany. "They have a coach who clearly sees what he does but they don't have stars like France, Spain or Brazil". If France counter-attack it will not be good for us.

"It's too soon to analyse concrete mistakes we could have made", said the coach, who added that he would not decide on his future immediately. We knew this day would come.

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