Best 2018 FIFA World Cup Group Stage XI


Lionel Messi finally arrived at the 2018 FIFA World Cup as he found his name on the scoresheet in Argentina's thrilling 2-1 victory over Nigeria in their final group game that ensured passage to the knockout stage.

Somehow, Argentina are through to the last-16 of the World Cup.

A team with ardent support across the globe, Argentina was listless in its 1-1 draw against Iceland and completely outclassed by Croatia 3-0 in the opening group games.

But, speaking on the eve of that second-round clash with France, Sampaoli said: "I remember that point in time but everything I say to my players is personal and I will not divulge what was said".

Argentina star Lionel Messi is "capable of everything", France goalkeeper Steve Mandanda said ahead of the teams' World Cup last-16 meeting. Sampaoli appeared to ask La Albiceleste's captain minutes before the Manchester City striker was brought on, as seen in a video from Argentine outlet Ole. Argentina have made it to the Round of 16 and will face France on Saturday.

Messi, 31, has come under fire for his performances in Russian Federation, where his classy opener against Nigeria helped Jorge Sampaoli's men into the last 16.

"France has a plan to neutralize Leo (MESSI) and we have a plan to better that. We had the necessary strength to fight to the very last minute", Sampaoli told reporters at the post-match press conference.

As the game was moving towards 1-1 draw, both sides tried and tested every possible move to take a lead in the second half. He's a shining light for us all, and we have to do our very best to all try to be at his level. "We make important decisions in games and I was simply explaining it, that we would use a strategy we had; using more attacking players".

Despite the need for a late goal to earn a first win of the tournament and keep his team in it, Sampaoli feels they deserved their late fortune.

While Nigeria's 19-year-old rookie, Francis Odinaka Uzoho is the youngest goalkeeper in the competition, Egypt's Essam El-Hadaryis the oldest player ever in World Cup history, at 45.