Sports

Messi on a mission as Argentina train with renewed hope

 Lionel Messi and Argentina
hit the training ground on Saturday with renewed hope of qualifying for the
World Cup last 16.

Argentina were on the brink of elimination after a humiliating 3-0 loss to
Croatia, but Nigeria’s 2-0 win over Iceland on Friday offered the two-time
world champions a lifeline.

Victory over Nigeria in their final Group D match in Saint Petersburg on
Tuesday would send Argentina through as runners-up if group leaders Croatia
avoid defeat against Iceland.

Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi and midfielder Lucas Biglia trained
separately from the rest of the squad in the gym as they recover from minor
knocks.

Defensive pair Mercado and Otamendi suffered ankle injuries in the loss to
Croatia but are expected to be fit to face Nigeria.

Coach Jorge Sampaoli was roundly criticised for his approach against
Croatia, sparking rumors the 58-year-old would be sacked during the
tournament.

It had been suggested that 1986 World Cup winner Jorge Burruchaga, the
team’s technical director, would replace Sampaoli, but the claims were
strongly denied by the Argentina Football Association (AFA).

Messi was kept quiet as Argentina suffered their heaviest first round
group stage defeat since 1958, but the Barcelona forward could yet have his
say at what is likely his fourth and final World Cup.

Goalkeeper Willy Caballero could be dropped following his mistake for the
opening goal against Croatia, with River Plate’s Franco Armani possibly in
line to make his international debut.