WATCH:

Argentina coach: Who wouldn't depend on Messi?

The Associated Press
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)
  • Barcelona have options for Gladbach even without Messi

    Barcelona have options for Gladbach even without Messi

    By Karolos Grohmann BERLIN (Reuters) - Barcelona will travel to Borussia Moenchengladbach for their Champions League match on Wednesday without Lionel Messi but the Spaniards have enough options and firepower to plug the gap left by the Argentine, … More »

    Reuters - 59 minutes ago
  • Why Chelsea are no longer a world-class team

    Why Chelsea are no longer a world-class team

    After a desperately disappointing Premier League campaign that resulted in a below-par mid-table finish, Chelsea were looking to bounce back in this campaign. However, there were no signs that the Blues will be competing in the upper echelons of … More »

    FC Yahoo - 2 hours 9 minutes ago
  • England manager Allardyce caught in newspaper sting

    England manager Allardyce caught in newspaper sting

    England soccer team manager Sam Allardyce has been caught up in a newspaper sting in which he is alleged to have met a bogus consortium of Far East businessmen seeking advice on the Premier League’s billion pound transfer market. During meetings … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 12 minutes ago
  • What's wrong with Chelsea?

    What's wrong with Chelsea?

    FC Yahoo's Ryan Bailey looks at the Blues' big issues and whom's to blame for their struggles. … More »

    Yahoo Sports Videos - 2 hours 13 minutes ago
  • Burnley beat Watford 2-0 in first top-flight meeting

    Burnley beat Watford 2-0 in first top-flight meeting

    (Reuters) - Burnley struck either side of halftime with headers from Jeff Hendrick and Michael Keane to claim a 2-0 Premier League home win over Watford on Monday in the first top-flight meeting of the two clubs. Forward Hendrick broke the deadlock … More »

    Reuters - 3 hours ago