- Coach Jorge Sampaoli refused to blame Lionel Messi for the defeat against Croatia
- Messi has had minimal impact at the World Cup and even missed a crucial penalty against Iceland
Two-time champions Argentina finished as runners-up in the Brazil four years ago and came into the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia as one of the favourites to life the trophy. What has actually transpired was surely beyond the imagination of their worst critics. After drawing their tournament opener against minnows Iceland which made plenty of headlines in FIFA World Cup News sections across the globe, La Albiceleste were thrashed 3-0 by a rampaging Croatia to leave their hopes of qualifying for the next round in absolute tatters.
After the defeat, coach Jorge Sampaoli faced the media and defended his captain Lionel Messi by stating that the superstar forward has struggled to perform in Russia as his teammates just haven’t been good enough. Possibly playing in his last ever World Cup, this is Messi’s last chance of winning the prestigious trophy and cementing his place in the hearts of Argentine fans.
“His teammates cloud Messi’s brilliance”
Having missed a crucial penalty against Iceland, the Barcelona talisman has had minimal impact in the tournament even in overall terms. However, in latest FIFA World Cup 2018 News, Sampaoli categorically refused to pin the blame on his captain’s shoulders, instead suggesting that a lack of ability elsewhere in his squad is to blame.
“Because of the reality of the Argentina squad, it sort of clouds Leo’s brilliance. Leo is limited because the team doesn’t gel with him as ideally as it should,” Sampaoli said at the post-match press conference.
The 3-0 defeat against Croatia was Argentina’s heaviest defeat in the World Cup group stage since 1958 and in more World Cup Football News, the 58-year-old tactician made no qualms about accepting his own responsibility in the team’s failure as he tried to deflect the criticism from a terrible goalkeeping mistake and Messi’s lack of impact.
“Argentina’s failure is my responsibility”
It’s not the boss’s partial responsibility, it’s his total responsibility,” he said. While clearly short of words when asked about Willy Caballero’s horrible error which led to Croatia’s opening goal, Sampaoli tried to take the spotlight away form his goalkeeper.
“It’s not right to blame Caballero. If I’d planned things differently, it would have worked out differently. I honestly thought the plan for this match was going to put pressure on the opponent. But after the disaster of the first goal, it was tough, we were lost emotionally.
“Our driving force is Leo, but we couldn’t find him. We work as a team to get the ball to Leo, but also the other team works to avoid that.
“There is shame, pain, at not delivering for the Argentine people. It’s been a long time since I felt like this, and now it’s happening with the shirt of my own country. It hurts badly.“
In the end, Sampaoli also begged for forgiveness from Argentina fans, stating that he has carried out the job to the best of abilities and will do the same in the upcoming game against Nigeria.
“We have one match left, and we have to take whatever opportunity the others give us to see if we can get through to the second round. I say sorry to all the fans who made such an effort to come to Russia. ‘I shared their dream. I did the best I could,” he concluded.
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