With the start of the World Cup just days away, Lionel Messi and the rest of his Argentina team-mates got a taste of what was to come as they enjoyed their first training session in front of a large crowd in Russia.
Argentina’s attracking trio of Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain all shared a laugh and a joke during training on Monday afternoon.
Following Jorge Sampaoli’s gruelling session, Messi along with other Argentinian stars thanked the fans for coming out to see them train by signing autographs and getting selfies taken with the travelling support.
Lionel Messi (L) and Sergio Aguero (R) have a laugh during training on Monday afternoon
The Argentinian talisman signs replica shirts and balls for the adoring crowd in Russia
Messi (L) Higuian (C) and Aguero (R) playfully joke around in training at the team’s base camp
Fans clamber to get a picture of Paulo Dybala after finishing Argentina’s training session
ARGENTINA FIXTURES AND RESULTS
May 29: Nicaragua (Cancelled)
May 30: Haiti 4-0 (Win)
June 9: Israel (Cancelled)
June 16, 2pm: Iceland
June 21, 7pm: Croatia
June 26, 7pm: Nigeria
As the South American side kick off their preparations for the tournament in Russia, Sampaoli will have wanted some more game time after his two of his friendlies were cancelled.
Argentina’s friendly away to Israel was cancelled due to political protests as well as their clash with Nicaragua, meaning the only match the squad has played together in preparation was a 4-0 win over minnows Haiti.
They begin their campaign against Iceland on June 16 at the Otkrytie Arena in Moscow and will also play Croatia and Nigeria in Group D.
Argentina’s Football Association president Claudio Tapia has already set the precedent for the side ahead of the tournament, as he believes reaching the semi-finals is a good target for the nation.
Angel Di Maria (C) tries to get past Nicolas Otamendi (L) in training in Bronnitsy
Defender Marcos Acuna (C) strikes the ball as Argentina continue their preparations
Fans got to see a rare Messi header as they trained ahead of the opening game against Iceland
Dybala (left) and Eduardo Salvio (right) practice close control on Monday afternoon
Argentina reached the final in 2014 but are not considered among the favourites in Russia after only just scraping through qualifying.
‘Being in the top four is a positive goal,’ he told TyC Sports as he looked ahead to the showpiece in Russia.
Messi will captain La Albiceleste as he bid to win a first major trophy with his country.
Tapia was quick to heap praise on the Barcelona star, labelling him the best player on the planet.
‘He gives a lot to Argentine soccer, let’s face it,’ he said. ‘The growth we have in the AFA is because we have the best player in the world.’
Messi takes a break during training by sitting on the ball as he watches on
Javier Mascherano (L) and Aguero (C) arrive at training in a golf buggy on Monday
Argentina’s goalkeeper Franco Armani is put through his paces at the team’s base camp