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."
|I may have to dust my boots off! - Pele threatened by Mbappe exploits|
|WATCH: Mendy and Pogba dab with president Macron after World Cup win|
|Woods embracing ´different´ Carnoustie challenge ahead of Open return|
|Argentina dismiss Sampaoli after chaotic World Cup|
|France celebrates World Cup triumph|
|Djokovic made ´improvised Wimbledon trophies´ as a boy|
|Stone goes agonisingly close to 59 as Pepperell & Dantorp also make Open|
|Outcast Benzema delights in France win|
|Final a triumph in itself given Croatia´s off-field turmoil|
|Anderson laments Wimbledon final nerves|
|Deschamps joins elite club, Mbappe second to Pele - the best stats from the World Cup final|
|Belgium´s Courtois wins World Cup Golden Glove|
|Collarbone fracture confirmed for ´devastated´ Porte|
|World Cup final player ratings: Griezmann, Mbappe inspire France as Croatia fall short|
|World Cup winner Giroud ends tournament without shot on target|
|Modric wins World Cup Golden Ball|
|Mbappe wins World Cup Young Player award|
|Deschamps redeemed as France win World Cup final for the ages|
|France 4 Croatia 2: Twitter Report|
|Tomlin optimistic over Bell contract|
|Kane wins World Cup Golden Boot|
|Ajax keen on Blind deal - Van der Sar|
|France 4 Croatia 2: Pogba and Mbappe seal thrilling World Cup triumph|
|Anderson would have played another 21 hours to reach Wimbledon final|
|Djokovic delighted to crown ´comeback´ with Wimbledon glory|
|World Cup final interrupted by pitch invaders - Pussy Riot claim responsibility|
|Djokovic´s grass-court U-turn pays ultimate dividends with Wimbledon title|
|Mandzukic makes World Cup history with early own goal|
|Dominant Djokovic beats Anderson to regain Wimbledon title|
|Everybody said I´m done - Degenkolb revels in first Tour victory|
|´Big party´ for Marquez after Sachsenring success|
|Hazard enjoys Belgium´s welcome home|
|Ex-AC Milan president Berlusconi conflicted over Ronaldo to Juventus|
|Spain did not contact Martinez over head coach vacancy|
|Maybe the VAR was watching The Simpsons! - RSL coach Petke slams MLS officials|
|Cubs´ Darvish hopes to return by next weekend|
|France and Croatia name unchanged sides for World Cup final|
|Marquez maintains Sachsenring dominance|
|Courtois claims World Cup has boosted his value|
|Buffon beaten on difficult PSG debut|
|Vince called up for Headingley decider|
|Farah inspires Tigers win over Dragons, Warriors and Roosters triumph|
|Crash forces Porte out of Tour for second year running|
|Ronaldo considered Napoli move, says De Laurentiis|
|Mafi arrested for allegedly assaulting Rebels team-mate|
|Everybody is welcome - Croatia pitch for neutral support in World Cup final|
|West Ham seal club-record swoop for Felipe Anderson|
|Rooney applauds England for capturing fans´ imagination|
|Krajicek urges Anderson to go for broke in Wimbledon final|
|Wimbledon 2018: Djokovic v Anderson in Opta numbers|
|Kohli defends Dhoni after Lord´s boos|
|Wimbledon finalist Djokovic can win the next six majors, claims Krajicek|
|We´re ´blessed´ to watch Mbappe, says Kaka|
|Bogaerts hits walk-off grand slam to deliver Red Sox win over Blue Jays|
|Cardinals dismiss Matheny, name Shildt interim manager|
|Pacquiao knocks out Matthysse to win welterweight title|
|Didulica expects ´cagey´, tight World Cup final|
|MLS Review: Rooney impresses on debut, Galaxy leave it late|
|Truex dominates to win Quaker State 400 again|
|Kim in control at John Deere Classic|
|Braves place closer Vizcaino back on DL, manager concerned about injury|
|Long on Eagles having Wentz, Foles: It´s really a dream|
|Effenberg: I´d prefer Mandzukic over Neymar|
|Courtois open to Chelsea stay amid Madrid links|
|Rays´ Ramos won´t play All-Star Game due to hamstring injury|
|Gary Sanchez injury update: Yankees catcher on track to return after All-Star break|
|Windies crush Bangladesh again to seal series win|
|Klopp backs Lovren´s lofty ´best in the world´ claim|
|Root welcomes ´ruthless´ England display|
|Martinez on target in impressive Inter debut|