Messi’s Argentina has a shot at World Cup redemption

Agence France-Presse
If Argentina beats Nigeria and Iceland fails to win against Croatia, they will go through to the last 16. If Iceland wins, it will be time to get the calculators out.

NOT OVER. Lionel Messi and the rest of the Argentina squad look to clinch their first World Cup win over Nigeria.

SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia – Lionel Messi’s Argentina faces their World Cup day of destiny on Tuesday, June 26, needing a win to have any chance of progressing to the last 16 after VAR chaos in Russia.

Argentina will look to join Spain, Portugal,  Russia and Uruguay in the next round but must rely on the outcome of the other match in Group D.

Held to a draw by tiny Iceland – with Messi missing a penalty – and humbled by Croatia, Jorge Sampaoli’s men could already be packing their bags.

The math is simple: if Argentina beats Nigeria and Iceland fails to win against Group D leaders Croatia, it will go through to the last 16. If Iceland wins, it will be time to get the calculators out.

Argentina pressure

Argentina’s struggles in Russia come after their pre-tournament preparations were wrecked by controversy and poor form, coupled with a reliance on a top-heavy, limited squad.

The Argentine federation was even moved to confirm that coach Jorge Sampaoli would continue for the final group game amid rumors of a rift between players and coach.

“We have to make our goal 5 games to reach the final. Tomorrow will be the first final,” said the defiant coach on the eve of the game in Saint Petersburg.

“No matter who plays tomorrow will have the obligation to give until the last bead of sweat so that Argentina will go through.”

Euro 2016 heroes Iceland can still dream of progress to the knockout rounds but they must beat Croatia and hope the other result goes their way.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, 1998 champions France take on Denmark in Moscow with top spot in Group C up for grabs.

Denmark require just a point to join France in the knockout stages, and could even pip Les Bleus to top spot with a victory.

“We are not going to give them a helping hand. Our goal is to guarantee first place and two results will allow that,” Deschamps said. 

“I would never say to my team that we’re playing for a draw. I want my team to go out onto the pitch without any ambiguity and to do everything to win this match.”

Australia still have a slim chance of progressing if they beat Peru heavily and Denmark lose to France.

Russia were buoyed by huge support in their first two matches, sweeping aside Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but the wheels came off against Uruguay in a chastening 3-0 defeat, in which they were reduced to 10 men.

Disappointed Russian coach Stanislav Cherchesov said it was better to lose heavily now than in future games but added: “Psychologically we are well prepared for the next games.”

Two-time winners Uruguay, with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani on the scoresheet, pipped Russia to top spot in Group A. –