The real Lionel Messi finally announced his arrival at the World Cup by inspiring Argentina to victory over Nigeria.
Argentina progressed to the knockout stages in Russia with a dramatic late win in St Petersburg as they appeared to be heading out.
Messi opened the scoring with the 100th goal of the 2018 World Cup finals but Chelsea’s Victor Moses levelled the score from the penalty spot.
However, Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo slammed home an 86th minute strike to send his team into the last 16 of the tournament where they will face France.
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Argentina’s spirit is something that had been missing from their previous two matches in Group D.
Manager Jorge Sampaoli was rumoured to have been on the verge of being sacked after their 3-0 hammering at the hands of Croatia.
There was even talk of a player revolt in the camp, which was denied by long-serving midfielder Javier Mascherano, as the situation reached boiling point.
Argentina’s squad seemed to be looking increasingly towards captain Messi for leadership rather than listening to instructions from their coach.
Messi was spotted delivering a rousing team talk in the tunnel before the players re-emerged for the crucial second period.
© El Capitano, 👑 Leo Messi 👤 pic.twitter.com/oERxpDC5fj
— Barca Media(Backup) (@BarcaMediaAcc) June 26, 2018
Goalscoring hero Rojo has revealed the details of that chat between the players that helped get them over the line .
He said: “Messi came up to us and told us to calm down and not be stressed.
“We felt nervous and that message helped us a lot and gave me personally a huge confidence boost.
“Messi told everyone that it was either life or death. It could’ve gone badly. We could’ve conceded but Leo was stubborn.
“He told me to run forward. Even Mascherano. He told everyone to attack no matter what. He truly read the game and risks. He’s a leader. The best.”
Sampaoli was embraced by Messi at full-time to dampen suggestions of any issues between the pair.
The Argentina coach added: “Every time Lionel Messi plays he shows that he is a fantastic player, above everybody else, but he needs support from his team-mates.
“His human side is amazing. He cries and suffers, he is happy when Argentina win. It’s important he shares those feelings. Many people say Leo does not enjoy playing for Argentina, but I don’t agree.
“My players play with their heart – they are true rebels.”