Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic expects Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi to be "uber-motivated" when his side face Argentina at the World Cup on Thursday.
Messi came in for criticism after Argentina were held to a shock 1-1 draw by Iceland in their opening Group D match, in which the forward missed a second-half penalty.
Failure to beat Croatia in Nizhny Novgorod could strike a damaging blow to Jorge Sampaoli's side in their quest to go one better than in 2014, when they lost the final to Germany.
But Rakitic insists there is no player more proud to represent their country or more determined to get them back on track towards success than his club team-mate Messi.
"My impression is not just that he's motivated, but that he's uber-motivated," he told a news conference. "When he goes to Argentina, he has a special smile on his face. I don't think there is a player more proud to wear the jersey than he is.
"I appreciate him as a human and a player, I've seen the way he has been over the last few weeks, he has given his all and he deserves all our respect."
13 – Since 1966, only Luigi Riva has attempted more shots in a World Cup game (13 vs both Sweden and Israel in 1970) without scoring than Lionel Messi did today against Iceland (since 1966). Shocker.#ARGISL #ARG #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/rhnROlfewx— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 16, 2018
Rakitic admits there are not many secrets about Messi that he has been able to divulge to his Croatia team-mates to help them contain him.
"What can I tell them that they or the whole world doesn't know?" he said. "Messi is one of the best players in the world and he'll have his moments. It's up to us to stop him but to play the right way and enjoy the match."
Rakitic compared Messi's influence to that of Luka Modric, a player he feels honoured to play alongside for the national team.
"It's a privilege to play with both," he said. "They're really different in their style. Leo is essential at Barca, by far the most important player, he plays up front with a lot of flexibility. That's what Modric does as well. He's our captain, he's a character, he leads us.
"If I could pick my starting XI, I'd have both in my team. I'm proud to play with such outstanding players. I repeat again: for me, Leo Messi is the best player of all time and I hope he plays as long as he wants."
Indeed, Croatia's midfield has been described as one of the strongest at these finals, something Rakitic was proud to be told.
"Thank you for the implied compliment!" he added. "We try to be strong as a unit. We want to be sure we pass the ball around smoothly and help our team-mates.
"In a country like Croatia, it's very special to have so many big players at big clubs and we want to transfer these qualities to the national team. We hope we'll be able to do that. It's an important match. If we play together, we'll make things easier for ourselves."
|Solskjaer to United: Red Devils´ interim boss in numbers|
|Solskjaer to United: Other Ferguson pupils who became teachers|
|BREAKING NEWS: Manchester United appoint Solskjaer until end of season|
|Kane a doubt for north London derby|
|Mourinho sacking changes things – Tuchel|
|Nets top Lakers in Brooklyn, extend winning streak to six games|
|LeBron on Lakers potentially acquiring Davis: That would be amazing|
|Rain helps Sri Lanka claim draw against New Zealand|
|Mourinho had to ´take the consequences´, says Klopp|
|Ausilio: Icardi has offer on table, won´t be sold to Juve|
|Chargers lead NFL Pro Bowl selections, Brees named NFC starting QB|
|Pro Bowl 2019: Chargers lead NFL with 7 selections, Drew Brees named NFC starting QB|
|Savea re-signs with All Blacks, Hurricanes|
|Flanagan facing de-registration as Sharks, Tigers cop huge fines|
|Napoli rejected £95m offer for Koulibaly amid United links – De Laurentiis|
|Kovac feels for axed United boss Mourinho|
|Rabiot, we do not need you – PSG fans respond to wantaway midfielder|
|Guardiola hails assured debut from Man City youngster Garcia|
|He´s very happy at Tottenham – Arsenal boss Emery wants Pochettino to reject Manchester United|
|Rams sign RB C.J. Anderson|
|Good luck with the Red Devils - Norway PM´s message for Solskjaer|
|Pogba was ´dancing on the grave´ of Mourinho - Neville|
|Solskjaer set to replace Mourinho after Man United gaffe|
|City signing Steffen up to Guardiola´s goalkeeper demands, says Berhalter|
|Mourinho is so strong - Guardiola backing for fallen rival|
|Mourinho? Ausilio dismisses Inter return after United sacking|
|Whyte needs to raise his game to beat Chisora again - Haye|
|Brussino leads late Tenerife rally as Venezia down Holon|
|Orleans 1 Paris Saint-Germain 2: Super sub Diaby sends holders through|
|Leicester City 1 Manchester City 1 (1-3 on penalties): Muric stands tall in poor shoot-out|
|Middlesbrough 0 Burton Albion 1: League One side reach semi-finals|
|Bologna 0 AC Milan 0: Bakayoko sent off as Inzaghi claims point against former side|
|Fortuna Dusseldorf 2 Borussia Dortmund 1: Bundesliga leaders suffer shock first loss|
|Rivera yet to make a call on sitting Panthers QB Newton|
|Pulisic would thrive in Premier League, but Berhalter expects Dortmund stay|
|Raptors coach Nurse fined by NBA for criticising referees|
|Solari ´loves´ struggling Real Madrid star Isco|
|Mourinho sacked: Pogba, Lukaku, Fred and his other Man United signings rated|
|Mourinho sacked: What does it mean for Manchester United players?|
|Ibrahimovic provides short-term pain, long-term gain for US - Berhalter|
|River Plate 2 Al Ain 2 (aet, 4-5 on penalties): Perez misses decisive spot kick|
|De Bruyne and Aguero back for City, surprise debut for Garcia|
|Uncapped Varun ´panicked a little´ after huge IPL deal|
|Replays scrapped for FA Cup fifth round|
|Pochettino readies big guns for Gunners|
|Ex-Wasps star Wade struggling with NFL transition|
|BCCI rejects ´baseless´ claims over Kohli-Paine ´banter´|
|Ibrahimovic re-signs with LA Galaxy for 2019|
|Mourinho sacked: Solari not worried for Real Madrid job|
|Mourinho sacked: 895 days and more than £700,000 in five-star luxury|
|ES Tunis 1 Guadalajara 1 (6-5 on penalties): Dhaouadi holds nerve to settle ill-tempered affair|
|Murphy lands permanent Tigers role|
|Mourinho sacked: Real Madrid´s Marcelo lauds ´great coach´ after United exit|
|Unadkat, Varun the top buys at IPL auction|
|Emery prepared to give youth a chance in north London derby|
|Tottenham extend Vertonghen contract until 2020|
|Panthers safety Reid receives seventh random drug test of 2018|
|Kovac relishing Klopp challenge in Champions League|
|Bancroft to return, teenager Lamichhane to fly the flag for Nepal in Big Bash|
|Liverpool still have plenty of work to do - Klopp|
|Messi ´never imagined´ his success after winning record fifth Golden Shoe|
|WATCH: Timberwolves´ Gibson tries to block shot with his trainer|
|Mourinho sacked: Klopp praises departed Manchester United boss|
|Mourinho sacked: Jose the best Manchester United manager since Ferguson - Gerrard|
|Mourinho sacked: Ferdinand calls for ´fresh ideas´ at Man United|
|Mourinho sacked: The mystique has gone as United spell ends in divorce|
|´He´s an interest not only for us but for many´ - Zola praises rumoured Chelsea target Wilson|
|Mourinho sacked: Pochettino focused on Spurs amid Manchester United rumours|
|Mendis eyes double-century for departing Samaraweera|
|Mourinho sacked: Zola expects Jose to be in another job ´soon´|