I tried everything to get best out of Messi - Sampaoli

Virginia Santiago
July 1, 2018

Many have speculated that this will be Messi's final World Cup, and part of this speculation came from Messi himself, who publicly retired from the team after Argentina's loss in the 2016 Copa America.

France will play either Uruguay or Portugal in the last eight.

Before the tournament, France were widely tipped for a run to the final but they have failed to click so far, scoring just three times in three matches.

Ronaldo on the other hand started his tournament with a hat-trick against Spain but has slipped behind England's Harry Kane in the race for the Golden Boot after seeing his penalty saved in Portugal's 1-1 draw with Iran.

You can also get a free printable copy of The Phuket News World Cup wallchart via the link.

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Burns told Press Association Sport: "What we saw was Messi nearly morphing into the kind of ideal Argentine in the sense of the Maradona who leads his men on the pitch, rallies the troops and takes them over".

The three-storey portrait of Ronaldo was painted on a building behind the Ramada Hotel to welcome the five-times World Player of the Year when Portugal played in the capital of Tatarstan in the 2017 Confederations Cup. Messi was seen rubbing his forehead vigorously [if not viciously] with a genuine look of concern [if not pressure] running all over his face.

The Barcelona star, at the age of 31, may have played his last World Cup game in a career curiously unfulfilled at worldwide level despite his astonishing achievements with Barcelona and his multiple individual awards.

Cristiano Ronaldo - with his eternal rival Messi now out of the way - will be looking to further burnish his reputation against Uruguay in Sochi.

Burns retains little sympathy for Maradona, whose antics during the Nigeria game only served to illustrate how far he has slid since his glorious World Cup triumph in 1986 - a success which still prohibits equal billing for the as-yet undecorated Messi in his homeland.

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It goes without saying that Cristiano Ronaldo will be the main man for Portugal against Uruguay.

Honestly speaking, I believe that Lionel Messi is not being treated fairly.

Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez found the net in each of his team's last two games as he has also started to heat up heading into the knockout phase of the tournament. The win also meant that the host nation has never lost its opening match in any of the 21 World Cups.

With the group stage now in the past, the current Atlanta United coach feels like Argentina will be able to play toward their strengths.

"We have the best player in the world and we had to try to create collective situations to really use that player who can have many brilliant moments", Sampaoli told reporters. "We gave everything until the end", he said amid tears and disappointment after the game.

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You have to go back to 2002 for the last time Argentina did not at least reach the quarter-finals of a World Cup so the pressure is well and truly on them.

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