FIFA World Cup 2018: Lionel Messi's Argentina have shot at redemption in Russia; France look to top Group C

Saint Petersburg: Lionel Messi's Argentina face their World Cup day of destiny on Tuesday, needing a win to have any chance of progressing to the last-16.

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.

Australia vs Peru and Denmark vs France will start at 7.30 pm while Nigeria vs Argentina and Iceland vs Croatia  will start at 11.30 pm on Tuesday 

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 maths is simple: if Argentina beat Nigeria and Iceland fail to win against Group D leaders Croatia, they will go through to the last-16. If Iceland win, it will be time to get the calculators out.

Argentina's Lionel Messi (R) passes the ball next to teammate forward Sergio Aguero (C) during a training session. AFP

Argentina's Lionel Messi (R) passes the ball next to teammate forward Sergio Aguero (C) during a training session. AFP

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 rumours of a rift between players and coach.

"We have to make our goal five 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."

Nigeria take on Argentina on Tuesday. AFP

Nigeria take on Argentina on Tuesday. AFP

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.

France out to show they're special

France have yet to shine at the World Cup, but they have good reason to show they have something special when they take on Denmark in their Group C finale on Tuesday.

Les Bleus have qualified for the knockout stage with victories against Australia and Peru, but they are keen to avoid Croatia in the last-16 after the way the Balkan side, favourites to top Group D, impressed in their opening games.

France need a draw to also top their group for a potentially more favourable meeting with likely second-place finishers in Group D, Argentina or Nigeria.

Another reason for them to show off their best is the remark made by Denmark coach Age Hareide, who last month dismissed Didier Deschamps’ side as “nothing special.”

“We talked about this between ourselves and we will want to show him that he was wrong,” said midfielder Corentin Tolisso.

Hareide also criticised Paul Pogba’s love for haircuts, a remark the French midfielder laughed off.

“I should have dyed my hair red. But seriously, we’ll do the talking on the pitch,” he said on Sunday.

Denmark play France in the final round of group matches. AFP

Denmark play France in the final round of group matches. AFP

Denmark will advance with a draw but a defeat, paired with an Australia win against Peru, could send them packing.

France seem to fear Croatia much more than Denmark, an opponent they have beaten six times in their last seven meetings.

“In that Group (D), Croatia seem to be the most dangerous opponent so let’s try to finish first to avoid them,” said Tolisso.

“Let’s say Croatia is the team to avoid,” echoed Pogba.

It is yet unclear whether Deschamps will be keen to rest some key players before the knockout stage.

The form of striker Antoine Griezmann, who arrived tired in Russia after a long club season with Atletico Madrid, remains a potential headache for the team.

“I am going to get better. It was the same at Euro 2016. I was at my best for the knockout stages,” said Griezmann.

Should Deschamps opt to rest several players, he could put Pogba and Blaise Matuidi on the bench after they were booked in the opening games.

Denmark’s William Kvist, who was injured in their first match against Peru and had returned home for medical examinations, will return to Russia on Sunday, but will probably not be fit to play.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jun 26, 2018 11:40 AM

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