What's Buzzing:

Argentina coach: Who wouldn't depend on Messi?

AP - Sports
Argentina coach: Who wouldn't depend on Messi?

View gallery

Argentina's Angel di Maria, right, and Lionel Messi celebrate after di Maria scored during the World …

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) -- Is Argentina's World Cup only about Lionel Messi?

Coach Alejandro Sabella seems to be getting a little exasperated with the observation - also made by Argentina great Diego Maradona - that his team is overly reliant on the four-time world player of the year.

Messi scored four of Argentina's six goals in the group stage in Brazil, including the decisive strikes in two of the three group games, and set up Angel Di Maria for the winning goal in the second round against Switzerland.

Ahead of Saturday's quarterfinal against Belgium, Sabella responded to another question about his playmaker's significant influence by saying: ''I repeat: Any team that has a player like Messi will greatly depend on him.''

But Sabella also said ''there is teamwork'' in Argentina's game and interrupted a reporter Friday to describe, in detail, the crucial role of Rodrigo Palacio in midfield to win possession and pass to Messi before Di Maria's goal in extra time.

''I'm sorry, if Palacio hadn't been there, we wouldn't have had a goal by Argentina,'' Sabella said.

Messi's success depends on the team providing him with the ball in attacking areas, Sabella said.

''I believe that this is work that is done by the entire team,'' the coach said. ''Obviously he (Messi) is the best player in the world but there is teamwork.''

Maradona, who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title, has told Latin American media that it's dangerous for the 2014 team to rely only on the supremely skilful Barcelona forward.

Possibly a little frustrated, Sabella pointed out Messi didn't deliver at the World Cup in 2010 when Maradona was coach and Argentina was criticized for that. Now he's Argentina's star - and there's still a negative reaction.

''It's a team that supports Messi, makes him stronger, makes him feel well. And therefore Messi performs as he's doing,'' Sabella said. ''Four years ago he was criticized. Now we say we greatly depend on Messi. It is not easy.''

The land of Maradona and Messi is a two-time World Cup champion, winning in 1978 and '86. But there are sometimes unreasonable expectations back home, Sabella said.

''It's a cultural issue. It's the way we are,'' the 59-year-old coach and former national team midfielder said. ''When I was little I always heard that we were the best in the world. However, we had not been world champions.

''We thought we were the best. It is part of our culture. We will wait to see if we can cross that line.''


Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey
View Comments (1)
  • Premier League clubs increase spending on agents fees

    Premier League clubs increase spending on agents fees

    LONDON (Reuters) - English Premier League clubs spent almost 130 million pounds on agents fees last year, an increase of 15 million pounds from the previous period, figures showed on Monday. Liverpool topped the list, which was released on the … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 57 minutes ago
  • Sporting snatch victory against Belenenses, Benfica win

    Sporting's Willam Carvalho converted a stoppage-time penalty to give the Portuguese league leaders a 1-0 home win over hapless Belenenses who defended gallantly for 90 minutes on Monday. Champions Benfica got two early goals to win 2-0 at Braga and … More »

    Reuters - 4 hours ago
  • Marin having trouble coming up with $1M cash bond

    Former Brazilian soccer federation president Jose Maria Marin is having trouble coming up with the $1 million he is to post as part of his bond on federal corruption changes. U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie set bond at $15 million, including … More »

    AP - Sports - 4 hours ago
  • Shades of Maradona as Higuain leads Napoli to top of Serie A

    Shades of Maradona as Higuain leads Napoli to top of Serie A

    Displaying a form at the San Paolo stadium not witnessed since Diego Maradona's exploits, Gonzalo Higuain scored twice in a 2-1 win over 10-man Inter Milan on Monday to provide a big boost for Napoli's title chances. Napoli leapfrogged Inter for … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Higuain brace takes Napoli top with win over 10-man Inter

    Higuain brace takes Napoli top with win over 10-man Inter

    Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain scored twice to put them top of Serie A with an extraordinary 2-1 win over Inter Milan who twice hit the woodwork in stoppage time after playing the entire second half with 10 men on Monday. The moody Argentina … More »

    Reuters - 5 hours ago