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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Lionel Messi's birthday party - in a Russian village field

The superstar turned 31 and locals where the Argentina World Cup team are based made the most of it

Lionel Messi hasn't much to cheer about recently.

First, he missed a penalty in Argentina's opening World Cup fixture as his side were held by Iceland. Then they were humbled 3-0 by Croatia and face the prospect of an early trip home unless they beat Nigeria tomorrow.

So he could be excused for not feeling too cheery when he turned 31 on Sunday.

But that didn't stop residents of Bronnitsy, a small town outside of Moscow where the Argentina side is based, celebrating the day as if he was one of their own.

Residents young and old packed a local park and enjoyed musical performances, face painting and – literally the icing on the cake – a life-size chocolate sculpture of the superstar that was cut by the mayor before the crowds queued up with plastic plates for a slice of their new hero.

A team of five workers at Moscow’s Altufyevo Confectionery worked for nearly a week to carve the sculpture in 60 kilograms of chocolate, according to Reuters.

Away from the surreal scenes in Bronnitsy, Messi was sent birthday wishes, via Instagram, by his wife, Antonella Roccuzzo, who is back in Argentina. And he and his teammates will be hoping there is further reason for celebration after their crucial Group D clash.

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