Mascherano to quit Argentina after WC

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Javier Mascherano says he will step away from the international game after the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Argentina qualified for next year's showpiece by the skin of their teeth, in the final qualification game, as Lionel Messi netted a hat-trick to record a 3-1 win over Ecuador.

This will be Mascherano's fourth World Cup, and on 139 caps, he is just four games short of the record held by Javier Zanetti.

Speaking to TyC Sports on Thursday, the former River Plate, Corinthians, West Ham United and Liverpool player said: "My cycle in the national team finishes in Russia.

"I have been clear that it will be my final point."

At 33-year-old, Mascherano doesn't simply expect to walk into the Argentina squad, and said coach Jorge Sampaoli will have the final say.

"The decisions are taken by the coach and he will decide if I am in Russia or not.

"I will try in these six or seven months to prepare to be able to be. Sampaoli will decide," Mascherano said.

"I have a lot of respect for the decision that coaches make."

Mascherano may also be considering his long-term future at club level, having seen his game-time reduced in La Liga.

He added: "It's clear that I'm playing less for my club because we have two centre-backs who are better. I am trying to battle to win my place – or at least be ready when I am called on.

"When you have a better player ahead of you in the pecking order, you accept it and try to turn the situation around – that's all you can do. I'm not the kind of person to get annoyed about it, and even less with the coach."

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