BRONNITSY, Russia — In any other context, the gesture would have gone unnoticed: Lionel Messi received birthday greetings Sunday from Argentina Coach Jorge Sampaoli.

But the best wishes came amid turmoil embroiling Sampaoli and the squad, which is on the brink of elimination.

Messi, who turned 31, arrived to the training field where Sampaoli was waiting to start the session. The coach went up to Messi, giving him a kiss on the cheek and a pat on the back. But then there was no further contact between the two.

Argentina’s football association was quick to deny media reports about the future of Sampaoli, who was strongly criticized for his tactical approach and the formation he put out Thursday in Argentina’s humiliating 3-0 loss to Croatia.

The reports said Sampaoli would be fired and wouldn’t take charge Tuesday against Nigeria in the team’s last Group D game.

Despite palpable tension between the players and coach, Argentina’s football association president, Claudio Tapia, indicated Sampaoli isn’t going anywhere yet. But he didn’t clarify what would happen afterward because Sampaoli has a contract that runs through the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“You have seen the coach and the team training,” Tapia said. “It’s clear that what you are saying is a lie.” Tapia didn’t respond to questions.

IRAN: Coach Carlos Queiroz lambasted what he said is the overuse of video review to overturn close and debatable calls instead of being limited to only correcting obvious mistakes.

“It’s a natural human thing when people make mistakes. VAR was not born to copy human mistakes. VAR was born to make it right,” said Queiroz, whose team had a goal overturned by video review in a 1-0 loss to Spain. “So it’s not human to implement the system and come out with the same excuses that we had before. This is a question of principle.”

SERBIA: A day after being put under investigation by FIFA for complaining about the refereeing of its 2-1 loss to Switzerland and misbehavior by fans, Serbia’s football association filed an official complaint with the sport’s governing body alleging “biased officiating” by referee Feliz Brych.

EGYPT: Liverpool and Egypt striker Mohamed Salah’s shoulder injury appears to have significantly improved ahead of the Pharaohs’ last World Cup game Monday against Saudi Arabia. Both teams already have been eliminated.