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World Cup stars mostly stifled, with 1 Portuguese exception

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

Maradona told Argentine TV station Telesur that although Real Madrid and Spain defender Ramos got more attention than Diego Godin, the Uruguay global was the better player. Argentina has underachieved for years during which the Albiceleste has become entirely too over-reliant on the mercurial playmaker.

In Messi, Maxi Meza, Angel Di Maria and Aguero, Sampaoli arguably has the best attack at the World Cup.

Discussing the criticism Messi has faced in recent days, Sampaoli added: "It's what I always say: when you score in the Argentina shirt, we all take credit, but when Argentina lose, it's all Leo's fault". "He's the best player in the world, but clearly it's impossible that a single player completely changes the situation of a match".

Five-time Ballon d'Or victor Lionel Messi is universally accepted as being one of the greatest players of all time but against Iceland he was largely anonymous - apart from seeing his second half penalty saved. "I think we've recovered, though", Sampaoli said in a news conference in Nizhny Novgorod, the venue for the match against Croatia.

France edged Peru 1-0 on Thursday in their second World Cup Group C game on Kylian Mbappe's first-half goal.

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However so far in Russia, Messi has been overshadowed by Ronaldo, who took his tournament goal tally to four on Tuesday with the victor in Portugal's 1-0 defeat of Morocco, which condemned the Africans to an early exit. "I believe I did the best job I could and I quite simply did not find a way to give them what they wanted".

AC Milan striker Nikola Kalinic was sent home from Russian Federation for reportedly refusing to come on as a substitute, though coach Zlatko Dalic said the AC Milan man had a back injury.

Australia's equalizer in the 38th minute came 31 minutes after Denmark opened the scoring with a gorgeous goal by Christian Eriksen.

Yet here they are, winless and goalless through two matches at the World Cup. "As coaches we need to realize these things and I am the one who needs to accept that". But everything positive Argentina did still came from Messi, and it was the same against Croatia, albeit he wasn't as centrally involved.

"Right now we shouldn't compare these two players".

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