'Genius' Messi can lead Argentina to World Cup glory, insists coach Sampaoli

17 June, 2018, 15:58 | Author: Ellis Copeland
  • Argentina forward Lionel Messi takes part in a training session at the team's base camp in Bronnitsy near Moscow

Reporters at pre-match press conferences often ask coaches to reveal their teams but rarely expect an answer.

While the result was not on the scale of that Iceland produced to eliminate England from Euro 2016, it was a major boost for the tiny nation, who retain hopes of advancing from a group that also includes Nigeria and Croatia.

The key name was not Messi, however, it was Meza, Maximiliano Meza.

Messi had a final chance to redeem his team with the final kick of the game, but his free kick from 25 yards failed to clear a solid defensive wall. I don't have any magic formula, everyone has tried and he always manages to score, he is one of the best players in the world.

And the answer to that, according to Sampaoli, is simple: let Leo do his thing.

The worry before this competition was that Argentina would rely too much on Messi.

"It hurts me to have missed the penalty, because it was the decisive advantage", Messi said after the game. Captain Aron Gunnarsson, who sports a long red beard and plays the role of a Viking warrior, leads the postgame, slow-building clapping exchange between the team and fans that is Iceland's trademark and should energize the crowd.

Crespo - who won 64 caps for Argentina - has criticised Messi's colleagues and believes they need to provide the 30-year-old with more support.

More news: Trump quip about North Korea's Kim sparks outcry on social media

Sampaoli rejected this notion, though, saying the superstar has plenty more in the tank. "It's a very even World Cup and you're seeing that, because all the games are very close", he added. "He shouldn't be under pressure in any case because he makes people very happy with his game".

A genius with a fine supporting cast.

Goalkeeper Willy Caballero has been given the nod, with Nicolas Otamendi and Marcos Rojo named as the two centre-backs between full-backs Eduardo Salvio and Nicolas Tagliafico.

Messi just missed a chance before Aguero opened the scoring, creating space on his left and ripping a shot into the goal.

The situation certainly isn't helped by the teammates around him who, although not exactly poor, are no Barcelona.

Heimir Hallgrimsson has defended Iceland's surprise qualification for the World Cup.

"We knew our starting XI since Wednesday".

Russian Federation selected 11 host cities to be the venues for the matches of the 2018 World Cup and they are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.

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