Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli has spoken out in defence of Lionel Messi, but thrown the rest of La Albiceleste’s squad under the bus.
The South American side have failed to win a game at the World Cup this year, drawing their first 1-1 with Iceland en route to suffering a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Croatians on Thursday.
Messi’s performances have been shockingly poor over these last two games. And that missed penalty in the opening match will likely haunt him for a very long time.
Sampaoli, though, reckons the rest of the squad are to blame as they cannot accommodate the Barcelona man’s brilliance.
Cristiano Ronaldo, by comparison, is having a remarkable personal campaign in the tournament and leads all scorers with four goals. There are many who believe that the World Cup has settled the argument regarding who’s best, yet Sampaoli claims that the juxtaposing is unfair.
“I think Cristiano is a great player – you can look at all he has achieved as a player with his club and his country,” he told the BBC after Thursday’s loss.
“Right now we shouldn’t compare these two players. I think because of the reality of the Argentinian squad, it clouds Leo’s brilliance. Leo is limited because the team doesn’t gel ideally with him as it should. As coaches, we need to realise these things and try to deal with them and I’m the one that needs to accept it.”
The manager also admitted culpability over Argentina’s woeful account of themselves.
“I am responsible for this result,” he continued. “I was just as dreamy-eyed as any fan and I am hurt by this result. I believe I did the best job I could and I quite simply did not find a way to give them what they wanted.”
Argentina still have hopes of progressing to the next round, but they’d need a huge favour from Nigeria, who would have to beat Iceland on Friday to leave them with a chance.