Any team would depend on Messi, says Argentina coach Sabella

Fri Jul 4, 2014 12:22pm EDT
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By Patrick Johnston

BRASILIA (Reuters) - When you have a player like Lionel Messi in your team why would you not lean on him to lead you to World Cup glory?

Pundits and fans have been quick to lambaste Argentina's dependence on the inspirational forward to carry them to a third World Cup but coach Alejandro Sabella was not amused by the suggestion.

"Four years ago he was criticized now we say we are being told we greatly depend on Messi so it is not easy," Sabella told reporters at the Brasilia national stadium ahead of their quarter-final against Belgium on Saturday.

"I repeat any team that has a player like Messi will depend a lot on him...he is the best player in the world but there is team work also."

The Barcelona forward has scored four of Argentina's seven goals in Brazil, picking up the slack left by his fellow attackers Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain who are yet to find the back of the net because of injury and form problems.

The widespread praise for Messi is in marked contrast to the criticism he received at the last World Cup in South Africa where his perceived low-key displays were cited as part of the reason his side crashed out in the last eight to Germany.

That seemed like a distant memory on Tuesday when a mazy Messi dribble set up Angel Di Maria to score an extra-time winner to beat Switzerland in the 118th minute of their last-16 clash in Sao Paulo.


Argentina's Lionel Messi looks at the ball during a team training session at the national stadium in Brasilia July 4, 2014, one day before their 2014 World Cup quarter-final soccer match against Belgium.  REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler