FIFA World Cup 2018: Lionel Messi fighting for Argentina career; Iceland hope to continue fairytale on Day 13
Lionel Messi has had a miserable World Cup so far and must turn it around immediately to save Argentina from a humiliating early exit from the tournament.
The first day of World Cup teams playing simultaneous matches to see who advances went down to the wire — and to video replays — with Spain eventually topping Group B ahead of Portugal. Tuesday's double-headers promise more exciting action as only one team from Group C and D each have secured their place in the Round of 16.
France from Group C have advanced and lead with six points. Denmark are second, and play France on Tuesday, when Australia take on Peru. Australia need to win, probably by more than one goal, and need Denmark to lose by as many as possible.
In Group D, Croatia have booked their Last 16 berth and top the group with six points. Nigeria (three points) will advance with a win over Argentina (one point) on Tuesday, when Iceland play Croatia. But Iceland (one point) or the last-placed Argentines could survive with a win and a Nigeria loss or draw, depending on goal difference.
Here’s a look at what you can expect on Tuesday:
Group C: Australia vs Peru, Denmark vs France (7.30 pm)
France have already advanced and need only a draw to top Group C. Denmark can move into the Round of 16 by earning one point, or if Australia lose to Peru in their match played at the same time.
Denmark are trying to advance from the group stage for the fourth time in their fifth World Cup appearance, but are without two critical players. Yussuf Poulsen, who scored in a 1-0 opening win over Peru, is suspended for yellow cards. Midfielder William Kvist is back in Russia but had returned home briefly for treatment on cracked ribs and a punctured lung in the game against Peru.
Meanwhile, Australia need to win and could call on the services of 38-year-old striker Tim Cahill, who is yet to play in Russia. An Australia victory, coupled with a France win over Denmark, would lead to goal difference determining which team advances with France.
If Cahill gets game time in the match and ends up scoring, he'd be the fifth player to score in four World Cups — joining Pele, Uwe Seeler, Miroslav Klose and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Australia have struggled to score in the World Cup and their last three goals in the tournament have come from penalty kicks, including two from captain Mile Jedinak in Russia. Australia are only the second team in World Cup history to score three consecutive goals from the penalty spot. Ghana did it from 2006-2010.
Peru will likely be without striker Jefferson Farfan, who was hospitalised with a head injury from a hard collision with a teammate during training over the weekend.
Group D: Nigeria vs Argentina, Iceland vs Croatia (11.30 pm)
Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest footballer in history, has had a miserable World Cup and must turn it around immediately to save Argentina from a humiliating early exit from the tournament.
Messi leads Argentina into a must-win Tuesday game against Nigeria at Saint Petersburg Stadium, where the African team would advance out of Group D with a victory. The South Americans are winless at the World Cup, Messi has yet to score a goal, and a victory against Nigeria won't guarantee a spot in the Round of 16. Argentina must win, and get help from Croatia, who have already advanced.
Croatia have no pressure in their match against Iceland, but the latter must win their final Group D game in Rostov-on-Don to advance. If Iceland win, Argentina are out and Messi's international career might be over.
Messi turned 31 two days before the match, and there's strong speculation he will retire from the national team if Argentina loses.
Iceland, meanwhile, are the nation with the smallest population ever to qualify for a World Cup with 350,000 inhabitants. The entire nation has been following the squad, which is known at home as "Our Boys." The draw against Argentina was an upset, but Iceland then dropped the next game 2-0 to Nigeria.
Iceland beat Croatia in a World Cup qualifier, and now find the same rivals in their path again.
With inputs from AP
FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: Italy miss out on automatic qualification as rampant Harry Kane confirms England's Qatar ticket
Euro 2020 champions Italy were held to a goalless draw by Northern Ireland and will now have to compete in the playoffs
FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: 'No excuses', Ronaldo urges Portugal to quickly bounce back from shock Serbia loss
Playing at home and needing only a draw to clinch a berth in the tournament in Qatar, Portugal conceded in the 90th minute in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Serbia and was relegated to a playoff that will be held next year with 11 other nations.
Italy will face North Macedonia at home in a playoff semi-final next March, and the winner will play away at either Portugal or Turkey for a spot in the World Cup.