Mascherano giving no thought to 146th cap for Argentina being his last

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Having set a new appearance record for the Albiceleste at World Cup 2018, the long-serving defender hopes his Russia adventure can be extended

Javier Mascherano has given no thought to his next outing for Argentina being his last, despite continued involvement at World Cup 2018 hanging in the balance.

The former Barcelona and Liverpool star has become his country’s all-time leading appearance maker in Russia , with his collection of caps taken to 145.

At 34 years of age, his time with the Albiceleste is coming to a close, with it possible that there may be only one more outing to come.

Argentina have to beat Nigeria on Tuesday to keep their World Cup dream alive , while relying on assistance from others, but Mascherano insists he has not considered making an early exit.

He told FIFA.com when quizzed on whether he may be about to bid farewell to international football: “I’ve not thought about that.

“I’d rather think about what we can achieve and try to do my best so that things turn out well. After that, fate will decide how our story ends.”

The Albiceleste find themselves in must-win territory having taken just one point from two Group D fixtures with Iceland and Croatia.

Their last outing saw them collapse to a miserable 3-0 defeat against the Croats, with that display having led to inquests inside and outside the camp .

“There’s no doubt that, until Croatia’s first goal, the match was pretty even,” said Mascherano.

“But then we lost our shape and organisation, and we ended up looking quite bad. That’s what was most worrying.

“We obviously know that results can vary and you often don’t get what you deserve, like in our match with Iceland. But to lose our shape like that – that’s not right. That’s something we’ll need to assess properly, because it can’t happen to us again.”

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Lionel Messi has so far failed to provide a much-needed spark for Argentina, with a penalty missed against Iceland, but Mascherano insists Jorge Sampaoli’s side cannot afford to rely solely on the Barcelona talisman .

He added: “The team is frustrated, not Leo. Let’s not put all the blame on him.

“We’re frustrated that things haven't gone our way, but we have to accept that and try to get out of this situation we’re in. We have to be able to overcome such difficulties. We can’t just let things happen to us and then give up the chase. It’s an internal struggle that we need to win.”

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