(Xinhua) -- Argentina coach Jorge
Sampaoli said Friday that he expects Lionel Messi to play in at
least one more World Cup, downplaying suggestions that the
Barcelona forward could soon retire from international football.
Messi said in March that this year’s World Cup in Russia, which
began on Thursday, would be his generation’s last chance to win
a major trophy after the team’s second-placings at the 2014
World Cup, 2015 Copa America and 2016 Copa America.
"I don’t think this should be [Messi’s] last World Cup,"
Sampaoli told a news conference ahead of Argentina’s opening
Group D fixture here between Argentina and Iceland on Saturday.
"His ability and professionalism will mean that he decides
when [he wants to quit]."
Messi, who turns 31 this month, is taking part in his fourth
He retired from international football after the
Albiceleste’s failure in the final of the 2016 Copa America
before retracting his decision less than two months later.
Sampaoli said Messi is under no extra pressure to perform in
Russia and sees the five-time Ballon d’Or winner in good spirits
heading into the team’s first match at Spartak Stadium.
"These types of geniuses that appear every so often have
different qualities," Sampaoli said.
"I see him being very excited.
"His preparation has been good.
"He wants the tournament to start.
"A player with so much ability shouldn’t have any pressure."
Meanwhile, Sampaoli revealed that Manchester City striker
Sergio Aguero will start Saturday’s match, with Juventus forward
Gonzalo Higuain to begin on the bench.
Aguero will line up just in front of Messi, with Angel Di
Maria and Maximiliano Meza on either flank.
Manchester City’s Nicolas Otamendi and Manchester United’s
Marcos Rojo will start in the center of defence while goalkeeper
Willy Caballero has been chosen ahead of Franco Armani.
The two-time World Cup winners will deploy two holding
midfielders: Lucas Biglia and Javier Mascherano.
History favours Argentina
over Group D rivals in World Cup
BUENOS AIRES Argentina (Xinhua) --
History favors Argentina in its upcoming clashes
with Nigeria and Croatia in Group D at the World Cup in Russia,
while it will face Iceland for the first time on Saturday.
Nigeria and Argentina have tussled a number of times, with
the last of these serving as a warning to Buenos Aires, as its
team lost 4-2 to the African side in Moscow in a friendly last
Overall, Argentina and Nigeria have clashed on eight
occasions, with the Albiceleste winning five, drawing one and
At World Cups, however, Argentina’s dominance has been
uncontested, having defeated Nigeria 2-1 in the United States in
1994, 1-0 in 2002 co-hosted by South Korea and Japan, 1-0 in
2010 in South Africa and 3-2 in Brazil in 2014.
Against Croatia, Argentina also enjoys a historic advantage,
having faced them four times, winning two, drawing one and
The only time these two sides have faced off at the World Cup
was at France 1998, with Argentina winning 1-0 in the group
stage, thanks to a goal from defender Mauricio Pineda.
Argentina will face Iceland on June 16, Croatia on June 21
and Nigeria on June 26.