Is Messi really calling the shots at Argentina?

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Argentina, the beaten finalists four years ago, escaped by the skin of their teeth after a ragged group phase and will rely heavily on Messi when their ageing team faces France in Kazan at 9pm Thai time. The same also goes for Uruguay and Portugal, two similar teams with similar strategies.

In the hours that followed La Albiceleste's opening 1-1 World Cup Group D draw with Iceland, Jorge Sampaoli had already been warned by Diego Maradona that the Argentina coach may not be allowed back to their homeland should the national team continue playing in such a lackluster manner.

After an enthralling three rounds of fixtures at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russian Federation, during which the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo stood out and Lionel Messi struggled, we have put together a starting XI of stars who impressed the most in the group stage of the tournament!

The comics shows Argentinean football star Lionel Messi.

The 1998 champions won 4-3 and looked a different side from the one that struggled to find their cutting edge in the group stage, pouring forward with pace and goal to stretch the ageing Argentine defence in Kazan.

France and Barca defender Samuel Umtiti, however, spoke about Messi's difficulties with Argentina on Thursday.

"I don't think we have high-quality performance, we need to change our lifestyle because it is not in line with high-level football, we need to change the way we train".

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"I always forget to cite Germany as one of the candidates [to win in Russia] because I don't like how they play" he boldly stated back in March.

Antoine Griezmann gave France the lead from the penalty spot but the South Americans levelled with a sweet hit from Angel Di Maria and edged ahead shortly after half-time through Gabriel Mercado.

Lionel Messi hasn't enjoyed the best of World Cups to this point.

Senegal's departure, however, means there will be no more fist pump celebrations from Cissee, which went viral on social media, tales of Senegal's fans cleaning up at stadiums and pictures of the team joyously warming up. There is not a single player that can contain him there.

You can see France and Argentina kick off the knockout stage of the 2018 World Cup Saturday at 9am et/6am pt. across the TSN Network and on CTV.

Now, depending on the room he gets given, there's a good chance that Messi will be faced with his long-time rival when he draws his curtains.

"This is going to be a hard match, we are going to have to step up our level", Lloris said. We knew this day would come.

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