Argentina's Jorge Sampaoli pleads with fans to lay off Lionel Messi

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 mother, Celia Cuccittini, said her son has been deeply affected by criticism of his performances with Argentina and insists he wants nothing more than to win the World Cup.

While much has been made of Argentina's over-dependence on their out-and-out star, who turns 31 this weekend and may well be at his last World Cup, Sampaoli said fortunately the obsession with Messi also destabilised others.

Argentina, with a population of more than 44 million, is fifth on the Federation Internationale de Football Association world rankings list and has won the World Cup twice, being one of only eight teams in the world to have won the Cup.

Ramos, a 2010 World Cup victor was addressing the press after Spain's 1-0 win over Iran at the World Cup Wednesday night and reiterated that the Barcelona skipper was far superior to Maradona. In Brazil four years ago, Argentina lost to Germany in the final.

"Of course, I know when we talk in 20 or 30 years, if you win the World Cup, the future generations who do not watch him now will be even more clear on the fact Leo was the best because they can say "he won a World Cup". He more than anyone would give everything for this to be his World Cup". "But when Argentina loses, it's all Leo's fault".

"We must take advantage from those spaces, those moments so we can attack in a better way". We can not dwell on it, lamenting what happened. "I think that's quite unfair".

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Celia was quick to deny allegations that Messi does not feel the same passion when he plays for Albiceleste.

Ivan Rakitic, Messi's teammate at Barcelona and part of Croatia's powerful midfield with Luka Modric, has no illusions about the Argentine's ability on the field.

Argentina collected just seven points from eight games when Messi was missing for qualifying games, with that total transformed to 21 points in the ten games when he did start.

"His aim is to bring the Cup home, to win the World Cup".

Debate as two which of the pair is superior has been reignited, with Ramos claiming that Argentines know that the Barcelona forward is the best player they've ever had. "We have a few days left to decide how we will play".

The Argentines have won the World Cup twice, but not since 1986.

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