Messi and Ronaldo gear up for World Cup knockout phase


Ronaldo got off to a hot start to the 2018 tournament by doubling his career World Cup goal total from three to six thanks to a hat trick against Spain in the opener.

France and Barca defender Samuel Umtiti, however, spoke about Messi's difficulties with Argentina on Thursday.

Les Bleus eased their way out of the group stage with little fuss although they are yet to hit anywhere near top form, with a number of key players including striker Antoine Griezmann below their best.

Umtiti was surprised by Messi's mindset upon arriving at Camp Nou, immediately recognising that the Argentina man is constantly striving for more. "I always give my best at my club. We make important decisions in games and I was simply explaining it, that we would use a strategy we had; using more attacking players".

While Messi produced only one, albeit sublime moment during the first three games, Ronaldo has inserted himself into the Golden Boot race with four goals on his tally heading into the knockout stage. In 2016, after Argentina's shocking Copa America loss to Chile, the Barcelona star told reporters his worldwide playing days were over, although he changed his mind less than two months later.

World Cup 2010Fresh from being crowned as the world's best player for the first time, Messi arrived in South Africa as the star attraction of a top-heavy Argentina under Maradona's management.

France has never lost in the World Cup round of 16, making it through in 1986, 1998 (when it won the title), 2006 and 2014. We knew this day would come. This was the third consecutive World Cup in which the defending champion didn't win its opening match.

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The former Chile and Sevilla coach survived, but still there are suggestions he will not be allowed to retain his post after the World Cup.

I can recall Argentina's 1978 victory at their World Cup - one of my first football memories.

"I still think he saved them some times".

England can have a bit of a defeatist attitude when it comes to the World Cup (or any major global soccer tournament, that is).

Kozo Tashima, president of the Japan Football Association (JFA), insisted the team deserved a place in the knockout stage in Russian Federation, won at the expense of the west African team by virtue of having picked up fewer yellow cards.

Adding fuel to the controversy, an unknown Ronaldo supporter challenged Messi by adding a phrase to the mural, which reads: "I scored 4 goals, can you beat that, Leo?" I'm really looking forward to Saturday's game. Is the future going to be at this World Cup or rather Euro 2020? Sure, the team let in six goals against England and had a style of defending set pieces that would not have looked out of place on a wrestling mat, but just look at the joy created by their goal! For me, that's what the World Cup is all about.