Lionel Messi retiring from international football again would not be a surprise for former Argentina teammate Pablo Zabaleta.

Following a poor start to their World Cup campaign in Russia with a 1-1 draw against Iceland, Argentina required a positive result against arguably the toughest side in their group in Croatia.

However, it was anything but as Zlatko Dalic's side ran out 3-0 winners in a humiliating performance from Argentina that now sees them in serious danger of a group stage exit with just one point from their two games.

Messi was a constant in the first game but was unable to break through the Icelandic defense. But against Croatia, he was largely anonymous with just 49 touches in the whole game as a poor and predictable Argentina side desperately lacked creativity and inspiration.

The Barcelona man was not helped either by goalkeeper Willy Caballero's second half blunder that allowed Ante Rebic to give Croatia the lead before goals from Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic compounded the South American side's misery, who will now have to hope Nigeria avoid defeat against Iceland.

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi was largely anonymous against Croatia. In this picture, Messi of Argentina walks off dejected after the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Argentina and Croatia at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, June 21, 2018. Clive Mason/Getty Images

A group stage exit for Argentina would continue what has been an endless disappointment for Messi with the senior side. He already suffered three consecutive years of finals heartbreak that began at the 2014 World Cup final, temporarily retiring from international football after Argentina's Copa America final loss to Chile in 2016.

And with him turning 35 by the time the next World Cup arrives, where he will definitely not be the same player he is today, many speculate that a second international retirement could be on the cards.

"I just feel so sorry for Lionel Messi," Zabaleta 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 [the 2022 World Cup in] Qatar."

"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," he said.

Messi and co. still have a chance to redeem themselves but they have definitely made the task at hand harder. In order for Argentina to qualify for the knockout round, they need all three of the following to happen:

  • Nigeria to avoid defeat against Iceland on Friday.
  • Croatia to avoid defeat against Iceland on Tuesday.
  • A win against Nigeria on Tuesday.

In the scenario that Nigeria loses on Friday, Argentina could still yet qualify but that requires a win against the Africans and a win for Croatia in their final group game that would see Jorge Sampaoli's side level with Iceland on four points. In that case, whichever team has the better goal difference will go through. If it is level, it will then be decided on which team has the fewer yellow cards.