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Diego Maradona: Lionel Messi's not to blame for anything

26 June 2018

Javier Mascherano has denied all reports that relations between Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli and the national team squad have broken down.

Sampaoli, who took over previous year with Argentina struggling during World Cup qualifying, drew harsh criticism for his tactics in the 3-0 loss to Croatia.

Sampaoli is reported to have met with the Argentine FA President Caludio Tapa, who has given the coach his backing.

"[But] I can't ignore the fact there are 46 games in this competition and the potential that 18-20 weeks where you play two games per week if we've made progress in the cup competitions".

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There wasn't many people predicting that Argentina would be knocked out of the Group Stage of the World Cup, that kind of awful mess is normally left to England, but that's where the South American's are. "The relationship with the coach is totally normal", he said on Monday.

"I still believe a lot in these players that have taken us to three finals", he added, referring to one World Cup and two Copa America finals.

Sampaoli admitted after the Croatia defeat that the "project" had been a "failure" and said the players were to blame for not aiding Messi on the field.

Sampaoli said one of his main tasks had been to transmit positivity to his players, who may be feeling pressure with Argentina in last place in Group D and on the verge of elimination. "His dream is to win a World Cup".

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Jorge Sampaoli's charges are on the verge of being knocked out at the group stage of the global showpiece, after drawing 1-1 with Iceland and losing 3-0 to Croatia. Nigeria can secure passage to the Round of 16 with a win, while Argentina must win and also needs Croatia to beat or draw Iceland in order to improbably advance to the knockout phase of the tournament.

I have been there with this Argentina team when things have been going well - and when they haven't - and I know what the build-up will be like.

Although the Argentina Football Association (AFA) has given the coach the nod to continue in his position, it has also allowed the players to select the line up for tomorrow's game.

They have to if they really want to go through. If Iceland loses to Croatia or the match results as a draw, then all will be well for Argentina.

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Diego Maradona: Lionel Messi's not to blame for anything