For Argentina captain Lionel Messi’s 31st birthday today, hundreds of residents celebrated with a colourful music festival and, in the absence of the great man himself, a giant life-size cake in his image.
A despondent Messi had briefly quit the national team after losing the Copa America final in 2016.
They face Nigeria at the Saint Petersburg Stadium on Tuesday, knowing that only a win and results between Croatia and Iceland going in their favour will stop them from falling at the group stage. Australia aren’t in the worst spot in that regard, but they still have to find a way through a proud nation in Peru who want to win a match at their first World Cup since 1982.
Mascherano, who has represented Argentina since 2003 and, with 145 caps, has made more appearances than any of his teammates, said the players know they must take a relaxed approach to the game on Tuesday.
Reports suggest Argentina’s players are taking player power to a new level at the 2018 World Cup following two sub par performances.
And his 31st birthday on Sunday only served to highlight how time is running out for Messi to win a major global tournament.
The 57-year-old won the World Cup trophy with Argentina in 1986.
Messi salvaged a disastrous campaign under three different managers with a hat-trick away to Ecuador in the Albiceleste’s final qualifier.
Argentine model and TV personality Cinthia Fernandez confirmed in a recent interview she had been told by Antonella that was indeed the case, and that talk of problems in the Messi family are wide of the mark. ‘But as a collective, where things don’t go as we’d like, we all have our own frustrations.
“It means so much because for Argentina the World Cup is special – and for me too”, the Mirror UK quoted Messi.
So far in Russia, Messi has been held scoreless.
The Everton midfielder missed a penalty against Nigeria, and his team will need to do more to share the attacking burden, in particular by being more effective at set pieces.
That’s why they can afford to field what is essentially a B team because they are still favourites top the group even if they were to lose.