Messi enjoys playing for Argentina, says Sampaoli

After breezing through one of the hardest groups at this World Cup, Croatia appear on course to rival the exploits of their Class of '98, who were beaten in the semi-finals by eventual winners France.

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.

After bringing back the smiles on the faces of thousands of Argentina supporters with his first goal of FIFA World Cup 2018, Lionel Messi decided to make the day all the more special for one Argentinian journalist following the team's victory over Nigeria.

Jorge Sampaoli defiantly dismissed any uncertainty about his future with Argentina and intends to fight to keep his managerial job for as long as he can.

"It's all great for the history books in Croatia but if we don't win against Denmark, when someone asks you what you did, what can you say?"

Argentina are expected to make several changes to their team for the match at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.

Tunisia made it easy for us - Hazard
He did well to last what he lasted. "He's going to be assessed and then we'll find out a bit more in 48 hours". It was a knock he had late in the first half.

After drawing their opener with Iceland and being hammered 3-0 by Croatia in their second outing, a late victor from Manchester United's Marcos Rojo was enough for them to see off Nigeria 2-1 and seal their qualification for the knockout stage.

"France has a plan to neutralize Leo (MESSI) and we have a plan to better that".

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi (C) celebrates their qualification during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group D football match. We follow every game.

Following the win, Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo revealed his half-time speech spurred them on to win.

His club team mate Samuel Umtiti, however, believes that Argentina's talisman is different from the player he is for Barcelona.

But as midfielder Ever Banega's ears finally pricked up and his face turned inquisitively to the man sat next to him, I got the sense that particular issue could well be unaffected by Saturday's result. "We were quite confident that we would be able to go through and fortunately that came through". If not we suffer, we know we have the best player in the world and we have to benefit from that.

  • Lawrence Cooper