Diego warns Argentina
Argentina legend Diego Maradona has warned his country’s fans not to blame Lionel Messi if the team fails to progress any further in the World Cup, groaning, “The kid is very alone…”
The 1986 World Cup winner insists that, Messi aside, the whole Argentina team must improve if they are to overcome a powerful Belgium side in the quarter-final of this year’s tournament.
They need to get it into their heads that we can’t be ‘Sporting Messi’. Maybe he can score a great goal…but if it doesn’t come off for the kid, we can’t jump on him tomorrow as if he’s guilty of the Argentine disaster.
Argentina failed to progress past the quarter-final stages of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when Maradona himself was the coach, losing embarrassingly to Germany, and with Messi infamously failing to register a single goal during the whole tournament.
This time round has been a very different story for Argentina’s number 10, picking up the Man of the Match award in every game, scoring four in the process which single-handedly dragged the team through the group stages. It was Messi’s run and assist which also saw off an unlucky Swiss side during the Last 16 knock-out stage.
Speaking on Venezuelan TV and widely reported around Latin America after the narrow win, Maradona bemoaned the team’s subdued performances and over-reliance on their star:
The kid [Messi] is very alone…the team doesn’t have a change of rhythm, movements in its strikers. I feel something very strong inside, like bitterness, rage, frustration, because Argentina can play much, much better…
The coach has to impose this. If they do not improve against Belgium, we’re in trouble!