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Will Lionel Messi’s World Cup dream come to an end tonight?

A defeat against the Luka Modric-led Croatians in Nizhny Novgorod could see Argentina flirting with a first group stage exit since 2002.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi, who has made the headlines for the wrong reasons over the last week, will have one final shot at glory in what could most probably be his final FIFA World Cup tournament.

The ace Barcelona striker was the talk of the town when he missed a penalty awarded to Argentina in their group game against debutants Iceland, thereby settling for a disappointing 1-1 draw.

Argentina face group leaders Croatia in what will be a do-or-die game for them. The former champions will hope to get the three full points as a draw or a loss would dampen their hopes and Messi’s dream.

Messi has won almost every trophy with Barcelona at club level, including the Champions League and the La Liga, and a World Cup trophy and a Copa America title are the international honours missing from his trophy cabin.

Meanwhile, France will be looking for a second World Cup Group C win against Peru Thursday while Australia need to bounce back from their heart-breaking defeat to Les Bleus against Denmark.

Messi’s teammates have rallied around their superstar captain after his spot-kick was saved in the 1-1 draw against minnows Iceland on Saturday.

Messi is bearing the weight of expectations as Argentina seek a first World Cup trophy since 1986, desperate to crown his glittering career with a major international tournament success.

However so far in Russia, Messi has been overshadowed by Ronaldo, who took his tournament goal tally to four on Tuesday with the winner in Portugal’s 1-0 defeat of Morocco, which condemned the Africans to an early exit.

A defeat against the Luka Modric-led Croatians in Nizhny Novgorod could see Argentina, unthinkably, flirting with a first group stage exit since 2002.

(Post first published in DC)

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