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Lionel Messi's statue in Argentina left damaged by vandals

The ESPN FC crew feel Group D which contains Argentina, Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria could prove to be the most exciting group of them all.

A statue of Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has been destroyed by vandals in Buenos Aires.

Photographs of the sculpture taken after the attack show that it has been cut from the ankle up, leaving behind a pair of boots dribbling a football.

The local authorities do not know who the perpetrators are but it is not the first time the statue of the Argentina captain has been damaged by vandals. Earlier this year, it had to be repaired after being cut in half from the waist up.

The figure was put up in an attempt to help convince the five-time Ballon d'Or winner to end his brief national team retirement in the summer of 2016 following Argentina's defeat to Chile in the Copa America Centenario final -- their third loss in a major final in as many years.

The statue was erected in the "Paseo de la Gloria" (Walk of Glory), an urban sculpture trail featuring some of Argentina's greatest sportsmen and women, including NBA and Olympic champion Manu Ginobili and field hockey legend Luciana Aymar.

The 30-year-old Messi is his country's all-time leading scorer with 61 goals in 123 appearances and it was his hat trick against Ecuador in Argentina's 3-1 win in their final qualifier on Oct. 10 that secured the nation their place at the 2018 World Cup.

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.

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