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Lionel Messi gets World Cup pep talk from Oprah Winfrey in Argentina

Lionel Messi is aware there are many people around the world who want to see him finally lift a World Cup with Argentina this summer, but he probably didn't realise Oprah Winfrey was among them.

Messi, 30, has been offered some advice from an unlikely source in Winfrey, the American TV and movie star.

"Messi, this message is for you, and this is the thing, you already know this in advance: You go deep, you go deep, and you find the strength inside yourself," Winfrey, one of the most influential...

ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

World Cup squads: Who is on the plane to Russia, and who is in limbo?

Tite insists Brazil won't rush Neymar back for the World Cup.
Tite insists Brazil won't rush Neymar back for the World Cup.
Tite insists Brazil won't rush Neymar back for the World Cup.

The international break gives countries a chance for another look at their squads, with the World Cup looming. 

ESPN FC has correspondents for each team at the World Cup, and they've assessed the state of play in the country they're covering.

Here's a look at who has booked their tickets for the plane to Russia (assured of a place in their World Cup squad), who is in the departures lounge (could make it, could miss out) and who is stuck in traffic (likely to miss out) as the race to reach the...

Can Jorge Sampaoli galvanise Argentina's squad of stars?

With 100 days to go until the FIFA World Cup, Ian Darke joins a group of ESPN writers and experts for a roundtable discussion about what to expect in Russia this summer.

NOTE: This is translated from an original piece for ESPN Argentina.

These days, calm presides over the Argentinian National team. The World Cup is 100 days away and Argentina is enjoying a quiet time right after the storm it weathered during the qualifying round. The team, managed by Jorge Sampaoli, is preparing to face two high-level friendly matches against Italy and Spain. These matches will surely help Sampaoli in making the final decisions before assembling his final World Cup roster.


 By Tim Vickery

Uruguay, Argentina appear to be headed in opposite directions ahead of World Cup

Federico Valverde has helped bring optimism to Uruguay, solidifying their midfield.

Less than a year ago, Uruguay were in disarray.

They took the lead in three consecutive World Cup qualifiers -- and lost them all (3-1 to Chile, 4-1 at home to Brazil and 2-1 to Peru). Matters were not improved in the friendlies they played last June -- defeats by margins of 3-0 and 3-1 to Italy and Ireland, respectively.

The problem was not so much in defence. It was in midfield, where the quartet chosen by veteran coach Oscar Washington Tabarez were having no influence on the game; they were not...

 By Chris Wright

Diego Maradona blacks out Sergio Aguero's face in family photo

Diego Maradona has inadvertently proved that his ongoing rift with former son-in-law Sergio Aguero shows no signs of being healed in the near future.

Matias Morla, the lawyer for the Argentine legend, shared a seemingly innocuous photo on social media -- only for eagle-eyed followers to pounce on a small but poignant detail in the background.

Hanging on the wall is a photo of Aguero holding Maradona's grandson, Benjamin, who is wearing an Atletico Madrid shirt, but the Manchester City striker's...

 By Tim Vickery

Franco Armani, Juan Quintero bring World Cup intrigue to River Plate

Keeper Franco Armani, a favorite at Atletico Nacional before arriving at River Plate, could get a look from Argentina's World Cup side.

Nearly 70 years ago, the great Alfredo Di Stefano left Buenos Aires giants River Plate and headed north to Colombia to play for Millonarios of Bogota. It was an important stage of a career that then took him to Real Madrid, where, as the European Cup (now Champions League) was launched, he became perhaps the most influential player European club football has ever seen. Now Colombia is returning the favour. Two of the most intriguing imports to Argentine football this year are a couple of River Plate...