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Messi deserves no blame - Argentina boss Sampaoli

Referee Damir Skomina and assistants Jure Praprotnik and Robert Vukan before the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Group D match between Wales and Republic of Ireland at the Cardiff City Stadium. (Pic by David Ra

Lionel Messi's 31st birthday this weekend is an ominous reminder Russian Federation may be his last World Cup and final chance to emulate fellow Argentine great Diego Maradona in lifting the ultimate prize.

The Barcelona star turns 31-years-old on Sunday, which means this World Cup could be his last chance.

Argentina's World Cup got off to a poor start with Messi missing a penalty in a 1-1 draw to minnows Iceland, one day after rival Cristiano Ronaldo had netted a stunning hat-trick against Spain.

"I see him very relaxed and he has a lot of confidence".

"We have had some hard moments with the national team", states Messi, who has admitted he may call time on his Argentina career once and for all at the end of this World Cup.

"His dream is to win the World Cup, it's one of his most desired goals". Later the happiness of the people, I've never seen so much happiness.

While Cuccittini supports her son's quest to win a World Cup, the criticisms he receives deeply affects both him and his entire family. "I told him to do what he knows best, to enjoy himself and I've told him all his family are supporting him".

"They [Iran] went out to waste time, whereas we like to win in a different way, we leave happy".

However, despite Messi's intimidating credentials, football lovers world over believe the Argentina skipper is still miles away from reaching the heights of legend Diego Maradona.

He even briefly left the national team altogether in 2016 after failing on a penalty kick in the Copa America Final against Chile.

"He has vision to make assists, he is the most complete ever, no doubt".

"But obviously I think we must work together".

In the end, needed his sublime hat-trick in the final qualifier against Ecuador last October to seal their place in the finals and when they needed him most he delivered.

Albiceleste will next be in action on Thursday, June 20, in their Group D encounter against leaders Croatia.

"We need to move on to the next phase, that's what we came here for", he said. "You made a mistake, I made a mistake, we all made a mistake".