Lionel Messi insists he and his Argentina colleagues were always confident of winning their crucial World Cup Group D clash with Nigeria, but admitted he did not expect they would suffer so much against the Super Eagles.
The relieved La Albiceleste talisman scored the opener in Saint Petersburg but the South American powerhouses were heading out after Victor Moses’ penalty made it 1-1.
An unlikely winner from Marcos Rojo four minutes from full-time sent his side through to the last 16, where they have set up a mouthwatering clash with France.
“We already knew we were going to win, we were confident that God would help us, that all would turn out well,” Barcelona star Messi, 31, told Argentine media.
“But we did not expect the complication of the draw, of suffering so much. But what’s important is that we went through.
“Without a doubt, we knew that an opportunity had fallen from the sky after the two games we had not been able to win and we knew we could not let this one escape.”
He has seem burdened by expectation at international level, especially at this tournament where he was underwhelming in the opening 1-1 draw with Iceland and anonymous as Argentina were swept away 3-0 by Croatia in the second game.
Asked how he felt personally, Messi replied: “I’m good. I’m very happy. It would have been very painful to have been eliminated in the first round.”
The summer transfer window is open and across the globe there is a frenzy of speculation as players and coaches look for their next moves.
There is plenty of activity and stories that have football fans talking.
Here, we look at the latest transfer deals that could happen very soon.
Jesus, 21, has been a huge hit at the Etihad Stadium since linking-up with the Sky Blues from Palmeiras in January 2017.
He hit 17 goals in all competitions last season and is a key part of Pep Guardiola’s plans moving forward, so as such, it would take a huge effort and indeed large transfer fee for Barca to prise him away from the Premier League champions.
Lazio have lined up the Arsenal midfielder as a replacement for their Serbian star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who is expected to make a big move after the World Cup.
Ramsey, who has just one year left on his contract with the Gunners, very much fits the bill.
According to the Corriere dello Sport, Lazio will step up their interest in the 27-year-old Wales international in the coming weeks.
The talented Aston Villa star has decided to leave his boyhood club this summer, The Mirror reports.
The Midlanders failed to secure promotion back to the Premier League under manager Steve Bruce, losing in the Championship Play-Off final to Fulham.
Tottenham have been chasing the 22-year-old versatile midfielder while West Ham have also shown interest in his services.
Grealish apparently wants to take the next step in his career and ply his trade in the top division.
Hector Cuper has left his position as Egypt coach in the wake of their World Cup exit.
The Argentinian and his backroom staff have left their roles after their contracts expired following the 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia on Monday, the Egyptian Football Association confirmed to Press Association Sport.
“Today, the EFA met and thanked all the coaching staff,” the EFA said in a statement.
Egpyt failed to register a point in Russia, losing their opening two Group A matches to Uruguay and the host nation.
Cuper, the former Valencia and Inter Milan coach, was named Egypt boss in March 2015 and he led the team to the final of the 2017 African Nations Cup, where they lost 2-1 to Cameroon.
He then guided Egypt to their first World Cup finals in 28 years, but, with star player Mohamed Salah clearly not fully fit following the shoulder injury he suffered in Liverpool’s Champions League final loss to Real Madrid, their time in Russia was an unhappy one.