By Richard Martin
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Former Argentina striker Hernan Crespo said the fact the team's players burst into tears after beating Nigeria 2-1 on Tuesday to sneak into the World Cup last 16 was a sign of the enormous pressure that comes with playing for the national team.
"It's normal, you play under pressure, because the Argentina shirt is so heavy, but at the same time it is abnormal that after the game you see players crying, that is the effect of all that pressure," Crespo, pictured here, told reporters.
Lionel Messi, five-times world player of the year and Argentina's all-time top scorer, often appears to shoulder most of that pressure but Crespo said every player wearing the blue and white stripes is under the same demands from the football-mad nation.
"The pressure is the same, it's not just him but for all the players, what happened yesterday wasn't normal, when you watch so many players crying after the match, that means that it was an enormous pressure," Crespo added.
"I hope that in some way they have released this pressure, and that now they can find the best version of themselves in the next match."
World Cup winners in 1978 and 1986, Argentina were on the brink of a humiliating early exit after drawing 1-1 with Iceland and losing 3-0 to Croatia, but Marcos Rojo's late winner against Nigeria means a mouthwatering last-16 clash with Group C winners France awaits them.
"We surely aren't the favourites, we have a team of good players, but so do France, and they played with the same coach for a long time, and so they already have an identity. Argentina don't," Crespo said.
"Argentina is still growing, we are in the World Cup and this is what we have got. But I think France is more worried than Argentina, because reaching the last 16 and playing against Argentina, let's face it, it's not the best option. And because of that, it will be a very good match."
(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)