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Despite trying everything in the book, Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli said he was unable to bring out the best in talisman Lionel Messi whose last chance for World Cup glory nearly certainly ended with Saturday's defeat to France.

Cristiano Ronaldo's girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez sparked engagement rumours recently when she appeared to flash a diamond ring as Portugal took on Morocco.

There is no escape for Lionel Messi - the picture above is taken from the back of the Argentina team hotel in Kazan.

Many jokes poured in on social media regarding Argentina's unavoidable "pleasure" of looking at the winking Ronaldo from their hotel windows.

Sampaoli has also called on the other Argentina players to match Messi's level as they bid for a place in the quarter-finals at the Kazan Arena on Saturday.

Marcos Rojo, the Argentina defender, volleyed home like a world-class striker in the 86th minute against Nigeria - a goal which kept his team in the tournament and sent the Africans out.

Argentina's coach hit back, saying: "We looked at different options in an important game and had to make a decision".

The coach said France's characteristics of quick ball recovery and pace on the break through Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud would make them particularly unsafe if Argentina were unable to dominate possession.

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"We need to control the match, that's our starting-point, we need to control the game throughout".

Messi has spent the tournament trying to hold his unbalanced and ageing squad together, even apparently bypassing coach Jorge Sampaoli to give coaching instructions in the 2-1 win against Nigeria that saved the South Americans from the same fate as the Germans. "You will see a team which will have a lot of motivation to win", Sampaoli said at Friday's press conference.

Sampaoli said his players lacked a "clear idea" of what they were doing but he studiously avoided taking sole blame for their confusion throughout a scratchy World Cup.

Burdened by relentless comparisons with both an ailing former great and a free-scoring contemporary, it seemed Lionel Messi's World Cup campaign was destined to end in embarrassment.

Now, depending on the room he gets given, there's a good chance that Messi will be faced with his long-time rival when he draws his curtains. "But we know that if we show solidarity in defence, we can stop a player like him".

"We will mark him with the same respect we mark everyone, despite him being a superstar", said Uruguay's Sebastian Coates of Ronaldo.

Their achievements so far will count for little - as enjoyable as it has been, all we have witnessed so far has been a lengthy appetizer.


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