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."
|Anthony Joshua v Alexander Povetkin: Tale of the tape|
|Wang thrashes Putintseva to win Guangzhou title|
|There is no problem with Cavani - Tuchel silences rumours of PSG rift|
|Wilder & Fury sign contracts for December 1 bout|
|Neymar is the Kim Kardashian of football, claims Barton|
|We did not want to sell him - Perez insists Madrid got ´highest value´ for Ronaldo|
|Osaka continues run, Pliskova awaits in Tokyo final|
|Cardinals keep pace in wildcard race with win over Giants|
|Djokovic hits Federer, pair lose in doubles at Laver Cup|
|Nowitzki likely to come off bench for Mavericks in 21st season|
|Red Wings´ Green battling ´virus that attacked his liver´|
|They said I couldn´t score goals – Ibrahimovic hits back at early critics|
|Slater charged, set to miss Grand Final|
|Rose not changing approach alongside Woods|
|Woods ready to ´hang in there´ at East Lake|
|Shaqiri´s time will come at Liverpool – Klopp|
|Richarlison: I used to copy some of Neymar´s haircuts|
|Brady says Gordon is ´really eager to get in there´ despite limited practice|
|NBA changes clock-reset, ´clear path´ foul rules|
|Tigers´ Martinez will play final game on Saturday before retiring|
|Sanchez to start for Man United – Mourinho|
|Speight saves Ulster in thrilling Cheetahs draw|
|Simmonds at the double as Chiefs stay perfect|
|Woods, Rose share Tour Championship lead|
|Ice-cool Shoaib denies Afghanistan in final over|
|CAF Champions League Review: Wydad Casablanca out as TP Mazembe pay penalty|
|Eden inspires rout as Castleford book Wigan semi-final|
|Thiem & Wawrinka reach St. Petersburg semi-finals|
|No change to Aguero selection despite new contract, warns Guardiola|
|Woods and Rose share Tour Championship lead|
|Wigan Athletic 1 Bristol City 0: Three on the trot for improving Latics|
|Josh Rosen will play ´when time is right,´ Cardinals GM says|
|Eagles RBs Ajayi & Sproles out Sunday v Colts|
|Ronaldo looking forward after Champions League red card - Alex Sandro|
|Rangers fire manager Jeff Banister after four seasons|
|Inter captain Icardi can improve - Spalletti|
|Jadeja and Rohit shine as India maintain 100 per cent record|
|Fisher shares lead in Vilamoura after record-breaking 59|
|Messi the best I´ve seen - Lamela|
|Silva demands end to Gomes ´rumours´ and targets early October return|
|Milner over Pogba, says Souness|
|Brazil call up Malcom, drop Thiago Silva and Willian|
|Denly thought Test chance may never come|
|Benitez tells FA to examine Zaha red card comments|
|Bjorn unsure of future after Ryder Cup|
|Tebas still optimistic over Girona-Barcelona in Miami despite RFEF setback|
|Emery promises more chances for frustrated Leno|
|Cahill considering Chelsea departure in January|
|Kaepernick to receive Harvard´s highest honour in African, African-American studies|
|Defending champion Ostapenko dumped out of Korea Open|
|Mourinho is an inspiration - Nuno|
|Witty Wilson ´delighted´ to be praised for Fisher heroics while sitting on couch|
|Burns, Denly and Stone in England squad for Sri Lanka Tests|
|Aspas reveals interest from Real Madrid, Atletico|
|Arsenal´s Mkhitaryan a doubt for Everton match|
|Klopp demands Liverpool ´stay angry´ against Southampton|
|Long-serving Tabarez signs four-year Uruguay extension|
|Injured Mendy ruled out of Cardiff trip|
|Douglas Costa out up to a month with ankle & thigh injuries|
|Slater shrugs off Feki hit amid Grand Final suspension concerns|
|Crisis? What crisis? Klopp unconcerned by Salah form|
|I didn´t convince him, he decided for himself - Guardiola says thanks to Aguero|
|Leno frustrated by Arsenal bench role|
|Joshua almost 2st heavier than Povetkin for Wembley bout|
|From salvation to the record books - Fisher revels in European Tour´s first 59|
|Lahm says Germany best for Euro 2024 as UEFA publishes report|
|Lopetegui backs Modric over Ronaldo for individual prizes|
|Goretzka to start against former club Schalke, confirms Kovac|
|Fisher shoots first 59 in European Tour history|
|Simeone defends Ronaldo after controversial Champions League red|