Except for Messi, Croatia are better than Argentina - Kovacic

Sampaoli feels that the two should not be compared as they are different players and that fans should appreciate what these football legends have contributed to Argentina.

"It will be great if we can reach the final but I am not very confident", he said.

"All our friends are now in Moscow and we have booked places to stay here for the first two weeks, so we will go to Nizhny and Saint Petersburg on the day of the games and return immediately after", said Leonardo, who has travelled from Buenos Aires and will stay for the whole tournament.

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi reacts at the end of the Russian Federation 2018 World Cup Group D football match between Argentina and Iceland at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow on June 16, 2018.

Messi was under pressure to perform in Argentina's opening game of the tournament against Iceland, with his big rival Cristiano Ronaldo, scoring a hat-trick against Spain the day before. The South Americans only managed to draw against a highly charged Iceland side.

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That result means that Argentina must win this game or they will be at risk to not make it out of the group.

Argentina team news: Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi to start in this 3-4-1-2 vs Croatia?

Another adverse outcome on Thursday and many may even start to consider the unthinkable - that Argentina could be on their way out at the group stage, mirroring their shock first round exit in 2002.

"With Leo, Argentina have only lost three or four games".

Argentina and Croatia have met only once before at the World Cup with the La Albiceleste winning that encounter back in 1998. These issues need to be sorted out if they want to run deep in this World Cup.

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Nevertheless, it is 32 years since Argentina last won the World Cup and 25 since their last silverware, the Copa America in 1993. As well as Rakitic, they also have the talented Luka Modric in midfield, and towering hitman Mario Madzukic up front.

"It will be hard to play against Messi, I hope that tomorrow he doesn't enjoy the match".

Legend Diego Maradona called the Iceland result a "disgrace" and warned coach Jorge Sampaoli he would not be able to return to Argentina with similar performances.

The quality of the player is such that he will try to make amends right in the next game and that would be Croatia. He will have more eyeballs set firmly on him when he takes the field for Argentina's second group game.

Lionel Messi was the subject of heavy criticism following Saturday's 1-1 draw with Iceland, yet Ivan Rakitic believes there isn't anyone prouder to represent Argentina than his Barcelona teammate.

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