In Photos:

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

View Comments (1)
  • Kane looking to emerge from scoring slump at Euro 2016

    Kane looking to emerge from scoring slump at Euro 2016

    Some of the continent's top strikers are finding it tough at the low-scoring European Championship, stifled by so-called weaker teams employing defensive tactics to grind out points. England striker Harry Kane might know this better than anyone. … More »

    AP - Sports - 29 minutes ago
  • Sneaked into last 16, Portugal must start winning matches

    Sneaked into last 16, Portugal must start winning matches

    With Cristiano Ronaldo finally showing his scoring prowess, Portugal is hoping to achieve something it hasn't managed yet at the European Championship - win a match. After three consecutive draws, Portugal squeezed its way into Saturday's round of … More »

    AP - Sports - 51 minutes ago
  • From indifference to uncertainty, Brexit talk hits Euro 2016

    From indifference to uncertainty, Brexit talk hits Euro 2016

    Britain's momentous decision to leave the European Union was the talk of soccer's European Championship on Friday, with one leading Italian player even warning about an undermining ''domino effect'' across Europe. Wales coach Chris Coleman spoke of … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 9 minutes ago
  • Croatia focused on limiting Ronaldo damage

    Croatia focused on limiting Ronaldo damage

    By Philip O'Connor LENS, France (Reuters) - Croatia will be focusing on containing Cristiano Ronaldo as well as bidding to score a first ever goal against Portugal when they meet in the last 16 at Euro 2016 on Saturday, coach Ante Cacic said. … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 27 minutes ago
  • Croatia focussed on limiting Ronaldo damage

    Croatia focussed on limiting Ronaldo damage

    By Philip O'Connor LENS, France (Reuters) - Croatia will be focussing on containing Cristiano Ronaldo as well as bidding to score a first ever goal against Portugal when they meet in the last 16 at Euro 2016 on Saturday, coach Ante Cacic said. … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 29 minutes ago