Lionel Messi could retire from international football if Argentina crash out of the World Cup, according to his former team-mate Pablo Zabaleta.
Messi cut an isolated figure as Argentina fell to a humbling 3-0 defeat to Croatia in their Group D clash on Thursday, making a premature exit a distinct possibility for the two-time champions.
Zabaleta, who was part of the team that reached the 2014 final, believes the Barcelona star could call time on his international career should they fail to progress to the last 16.
"I just feel so sorry for Lionel Messi," he told the BBC.
"This was his last chance to win something with Argentina so I wouldn't be surprised to see him retire from international football after this.
"He'll be so disappointed and it's another four years until Qatar."
Argentina capitulated after Willy Caballero's blunder allowed Ante Rebic to open the scoring in the 53rd minute, with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic adding goals late on.
Zabaleta was at a loss to explain the performance and has warned the players that supporters will not tolerate such a limp surrender.
He added: "The people in Argentina will be so angry now. You expect more from those players.
"They are so hungry for this World Cup, and they will not accept this.
"I've never seen a performance like this by Argentina. Never before. There was a lack of spirit and it's very strange to see."
Mario Kempes - who was part of Argentina's 1978 World Cup-winning team - shared Zabaleta's disbelief, accusing the players of putting in a "shameful" performance.
"The performance was shameful and the farewell is closer with each game," he said.
"When a reaction was expected in the second match it is a great surprise that it was worse than the first."
|ATP announces candidates to host future Finals|
|Ronaldo: Juventus fans refuse to lose to Torino|
|Hero Rivers feared he had cost Chargers in KC|
|Williams would welcome Llorente back to Athletic Bilbao|
|Liverpool v Manchester United: Minding the gap|
|Milan elimination unjust, fumes Leonardo|
|Paul hails ´sick´ Harden after record-breaking display|
|Liverpool v Manchester United: Salah, Mane and Firmino v Rashford, Martial and Lukaku in Opta number|
|Canelo open to GGG trilogy as he chases place in Mexican history|
|The big Friday Premier League quiz|
|Harden posts record fourth 50-point triple-double in win over Lakers|
|Barcelona squad happy with Dembele, says Alba|
|Chargers rally past Chiefs to clinch playoff spot|
|WATCH: Chargers top Chiefs on dramatic two-point conversion in final seconds|
|Suns owner Sarver committed to keeping team in Phoenix|
|Chargers WR Allen leaves with injury after near-spectacular catch|
|Socceroos not giving up on Mooy for Asian Cup|
|Cooper says Raiders owner wanted to trade him to Cowboys|
|Pochettino jokes Levy is ´worried´ about losing him|
|Barcelona would welcome Morata – Alba|
|Toure not a priority for West Ham – Pellegrini|
|Koscielny no certainty to face Southampton, says Emery|
|We gifted the game – AC Milan boss Gattuso furious after Europa League exit|
|My season starts now, says Koscielny|
|Cipriani ´at peace´ with latest England snub|
|Laporte: Deschamps must have personal reasons for France snub|
|Morata injury not too serious, claims Chelsea boss Sarri|
|Hansen to leave: All Blacks coach returning focus to World Cup defence|
|I want to fight the champion! - Joshua reiterates Wilder in April ambition|
|Gundogan glad to leave Christmas holidays behind|
|I know how it feels and it hurts - Gundogan on Sterling abuse|
|Celtic 1 Red Bull Salzburg 2: Scottish champions through despite defeat|
|Olympiacos 3 AC Milan 1: Rossoneri crash out of Europa League|
|Arsenal 1 Qarabag 0: Lacazette on target as Saka shines|
|Hansen to leave: All Blacks will take time to name replacement|
|Chelsea condemn alleged anti-Semitic chanting from fans|
|Hansen to leave: The best Opta facts from New Zealand coach´s tenure|
|Hansen to leave: Five contenders to be the next All Blacks coach|
|Hansen to leave: Highs and highs of his All Blacks reign|
|Hansen to leave All Blacks after World Cup|
|Rapid Vienna 1 Rangers 0: Late Ljubicic winner sends Gerrard´s men out|
|Beckham continues to miss Giants practice with quad injury|
|Vidi 2 Chelsea 2: Giroud spares Sarri´s side in lacklustre draw|
|Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille fixtures among latest Ligue 1 cancellations|
|Santos turn to ex-Argentina boss Sampaoli|
|Muller could miss Champions League last 16 after Tagliafico kick|
|Home hope Bekker out in front at Alfred Dunhill Championship|
|Van Bommel in touch with Robben over PSV reunion|
|Pinarello chief confident over Team Sky future|
|Stade make Ospreys tickets free in tribute to teenager|
|WRC great Loeb seals Hyundai switch|
|Madrid rumours better than sack talk, says Pochettino|
|Nadal to join Federer at 2019 Laver Cup|
|Prigoda smashes world record, Hosszu dethroned in Hangzhou|
|Former Juve CEO Marotta takes over at Inter|
|Glenn to stand down as FA boss next year|
|Muller apologises to Tagliafico for kick to the head|
|Pereira pleads for more Manchester United chances|
|Griffin hails ´phenomenal´ Lowry after Warriors demolition|
|I´ve played with Zidane and Henry, but Messi is something else – Pires|
|Dragons forward Jack de Belin charged with sexual assault|
|Durant: Raptors are the real deal|
|Cocu bids farewell to Fenerbahce after ´mutual agreement´ is made over October sacking|
|Australia unchanged for historic Perth Test|
|Champions League draw: The possible last-16 ties|
|Southee happy to be back on home soil|
|I wouldn´t swap Dembele for Neymar – Pires|
|Canelo ready to risk heavy weather against Fielding|
|Raptors upstage Warriors, Davis leads Pelicans with 44 points|
|India skipper Kohli excited by green Perth wicket|