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ESPN FC  By ESPN

Lionel Messi's 31st birthday marked with life-size chocolate sculpture

ESPN's team of reporters in Russia have messages for birthday boy Lionel Messi as he faces elimination. Meanwhile, England fans are in high spirits.

What better gift could there be for a larger-than-life footballer than a life-size chocolate sculpture?

That's exactly what those at Moscow's Altufyevo Confectionery thought when it realised Lionel Messi would be spending his 31st birthday in the city on Sunday.

"We found out by chance that it was Messi's birthday on June 24," chief confectioner Daria Malkina told Reuters. "And we thought, 'Why not make Leo a gift, a chocolate sculpture of himself?'"

Five people spent nearly a week crafting the sculpture, which weighs 60 kilograms (132 pounds) and will be mounted on top of a birthday cake.

Malkina said she has been in touch with the team to present him with the sculpture -- "We will give Lionel Messi to Lionel Messi," she said, laughing -- before it goes on display in Bronnitsky, the suburban town that has hosted Argentina's training base.

Argentina will face Nigeria in St. Petersburg on Tuesday in a game vital to their chances of moving on.

For the confectioners' sake, let's hope there are no meltdowns.

Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.

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