Under-fire Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli is bullish over Argentina's hopes of keeping their World Cup dream alive with victory over Nigeria and challenged them to write "a new page in the history of the national squad" in St Petersburg.
A chastening 3-0 defeat to Croatia in Group D last week made for grim reading in that regard for one of international football's heavyweight nations.
Only victory over the Super Eagles – a country they have beaten in four previous World Cups – at Krestovsky Stadium on Tuesday will give Argentina and star man Lionel Messi a chance of remaining in Russia for the knockout stages.
Reports of recriminations in the aftermath of the Croatia loss, with some senior players understood to be unhappy over Sampaoli's methods, have dominated the build-up, but the former Chile and Sevilla boss was in defiant form at his pre-match news conference.
"It's been a very difficult week after that defeat, which was painful for us," he said. "We now find ourselves in the last match with everything at stake [in terms of] qualifying for the last 16.
"As for certain situations, I can't clarify things that are untrue and things that don't exist.
"After the last match, I took responsibility for that defeat. The next day, as a coach, all I thought about was winning [on Tuesday].
"I am totally convinced that team will go on pitch with great energy to secure a victory. I am totally convinced there will be a new page in the history of the national squad."
Sampaoli did not deny talks between his players and technical staff took place after their latest setback but refused to divulge the details, instead railing against a "virtual world" of speculation, claim and counter-claim that makes those on the receiving end feel like "criminals".
"Personally, the virtual world doesn't affect me at all," he said. "I try not to pay attention to the virtual world but I am aware that many people around are part of the virtual world.
"It's not that easy to separate oneself. Sometimes, I do have to enter the virtual world to tell there are realities, facts that can't be changed.
"I have to deal exclusively with the reality that Argentina didn't win against Croatia. That complicated matters for our progression.
"Sometimes people in the virtual world make you feel like a criminal simply because you lost a game. If I were to think that I've got to immerse myself in the virtual world, I would have to throw in the towel and leave my position."
Sampaoli did not indulge in his occasional habit of divulging Argentina's line-up a day before the game, with reports back in his homeland suggesting sweeping changes in terms of both tactics and personnel are once again likely.
Uncapped goalkeeper Franco Armani is in line for his debut in place of Willy Caballero, whose bizarre error led directly to Ante Rebic's opener for Croatia.
Armani flanked Sampaoli at his briefing but the coach would not confirm the River Plate man's involvement or be drawn on other particulars – such as Gonzalo Higuain replacing Sergio Aguero in attack.
"We have been practicing a few specificities, I do have everything clear in my mind but for this match I will not give the line-up," he added.
"The players themselves don't know the starting XI yet. What I can say is that I have total confidence and security that Argentina will now begin to experience this World Cup in a very different way. "
|Allegri hails ´great professional´ Ronaldo|
|LeBron, Ball first Lakers team-mates with triple-doubles in same game since 1982|
|Premier League contenders Liverpool ready to win titles – Henderson|
|Hopkins´ two TDs help Texans close in on AFC South title with win over Jets|
|Courtois: Simeone criticises Real Madrid to boost popularity|
|Mourinho in the dark over transfers as Pogba rumours swirl again|
|Mourinho marvels at Salah going nuclear|
|The lucky ones - Mourinho assesses Liverpool´s title charge|
|Juventus boss Allegri turned his back on Ronaldo penalty|
|Dickerson hoping Barkley falls short of breaking his records|
|Bristol shock La Rochelle, Clermont win again|
|LeBron: Meeting Jordan for first time was godly|
|Ronaldo scores Juventus´ 5,000th Serie A goal|
|I was all over the place - Allen reaches Scottish Open final despite hangovers|
|Solari defends wasteful Asensio after slim Madrid win|
|Torino 0 Juventus 1: Ronaldo capitalises on Zaza woe|
|I do my work on the pitch – Icardi unconcerned by Inter contract discussions|
|Lyon defender Rafael set for three months out|
|Inter captain Icardi is the ´perfect´ striker – Spalletti|
|Fulham have to stick together, says Ranieri|
|Nuno hails ´very special´ Wolves achievement after third straight win|
|Stuttgart captain Gentner´s father dies at Hertha fixture|
|Valverde not desperate for new centre-back amid talk of Christensen loan|
|Toulouse and Saracens stay perfect in Champions Cup|
|Kovac lauds Bayern´s best performance of the season|
|Barcelona can get the best out of Coutinho and Dembele, claims Valverde|
|Borussia Dortmund 2 Werder Bremen 1: Alcacer and Reus guarantee top spot for mid-season break|
|Bristol City 2 Norwich City 2: Canaries knocked off their perch despite late equaliser|
|Atletico´s fighting spirit lauded by Simeone, Godin|
|Hodgson relieved to see Palace end Zaha curse|
|Real Madrid 1 Rayo Vallecano 0: Benzema secures steady response to CSKA loss|
|Fulham 0 West Ham 2: Snodgrass, Antonio punish profligate hosts|
|Warnock brands refereeing situation ´a disgrace´ after Watford defeat|
|Inter 1 Udinese 0: Icardi penalty gets lethargic Nerazzurri back on track|
|Wagner retains belief in survival bid despite Newcastle defeat|
|Griezmann feeling the strain after busy 2018|
|Pochettino ´so pleased´ as tired Tottenham scrap to Burnley win|
|Man Utd hand Smalling new contract|
|ES Tunis 0 Al Ain 3: Convincing victory books River Plate semi|
|Championship Review: Bamford fires Leeds to summit, Middlesbrough defeated by QPR|
|Curry reacts to Kings´ trolling with moon landing video|
|Wentz ruled out of Rams clash|
|Pochettino reaches 100 Premier League wins for Tottenham faster than Wenger for Arsenal|
|Real Valladolid 2 Atletico Madrid 3: Griezmann the hero on landmark appearance|
|Silva rues Richarlison´s missed chances at City|
|Gibson has no worries over Proteas batsmen|
|Wolves 2 Bournemouth 0: Jimenez and Cavaleiro score against toothless Cherries|
|Crystal Palace 1 Leicester City 0: Captain Milivojevic earns vital victory|
|Watford 3 Cardiff City 2: Hornets hang on despite late fightback|
|Tottenham 1 Burnley 0: Eriksen snatches victory at the death|
|Huddersfield Town 0 Newcastle United 1: Rondon strike settles scrap|
|Sabres suspend forward Berglund for failing to report to the team|
|Saunders thanks Fury for getting him ´back on the right track´|
|Hannover 0 Bayern Munich 4: Gnabry and Kimmich star in crushing win|
|I admire Sterling – Guardiola|
|City´s strength in depth makes it hard for me – Jesus|
|Jamieson holds slender lead in Malelane|
|Kashima Antlers 3 Guadalajara 2: Comeback win sets up Real Madrid semi-final|
|Hosszu claims fourth Hangzhou gold, Le Clos beaten by Santos|
|Manchester City 3 Everton 1: Jesus at the double as City go top|
|Parker defiant on low blow claims after ending 2018 ´with a bang´|
|Alisson: Liverpool must beat Manchester United|
|Mourinho´s brutal honesty praised by Karanka|
|Fielding inspired by Bellew after overcoming setbacks to face Canelo|
|Mourinho loves being a manager ´more than ever´|
|Khawaja unconcerned by poor start to India series|
|WATCH: Dellavedova dives into media table to rescue possession|
|Christmas form could transform Man United´s season - Rashford|
|Urgent changes needed at Manchester United – Ferdinand|
|Ishant confident as Kohli carries India into day three|