Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli again lauded Lionel Messi as the best player in the world on Wednesday and suggested the forward has faced "unfair" criticism following his costly failure to convert a penalty in their World Cup opener against Iceland.
Messi saw a second-half spot-kick saved by Hannes Thor Halldorsson as Argentina were held to a surprise 1-1 draw in their opening Group D fixture.
As a result, La Albiceleste are now under additional pressure ahead of Thursday's clash with Croatia, who began their campaign with a routine 2-0 win over Nigeria.
Sampaoli is confident his team are over their initial troubles, though, and insists Messi cannot be held solely responsible for Argentina's fortunes in Russia.
"We were quite upset about not having won. I think we've recovered, though," Sampaoli said in a news conference in Nizhny Novgorod, the venue for the match against Croatia.
"Leo shouldn't shoulder all the responsibility. We're talking about a World Cup that involves millions of people. We can all miss a penalty. We have an entire squad here and we need to bind ourselves together through good and bad.
"Sometimes, football gives you these unpleasant surprises."
Discussing the criticism Messi has faced in recent days, Sampaoli added: "It's what I always say: when you score in the Argentina shirt, we all take credit, but when Argentina lose, it's all Leo's fault. I think that's quite unfair treatment.
"It's a lot of pressure for a single player to bear so I have to say I also feel responsible for missing that penalty and I'll celebrate Leo's goals like any other Argentine.
"He is the best player in the world and clearly it is impossible that a single player changes the situation of a match completely. He can't be held responsible for a defeat."
Many have suggested Messi needs to guide his country to World Cup glory in order to be held in the same esteem as Argentina icon Diego Maradona.
Asked for his opinion on the matter, Sampaoli said: "People like to compare things to define differences that have to do with different generations.
"With Argentina, Leo has only lost five or six matches of the 75 or so he has played so Leo is a pillar of the team, just as Diego was in his day.
"Every Argentinian is free to have the opinion they want."
21 de marzo 2019
|Tipsarevic ends ATP drought as rain wreaks havoc|
|Sixers star Joel Embiid: I´m the most unstoppable player in the NBA|
|Azarenka advances before rain hits Miami Open|
|Spurs coach Popovich gives Wade special gifts before final matchup|
|´You just gotta keep pushing´ – Kobe Bryant gives advice to LeBron James|
|Kyler Murray criticism ´garbage´, says Oklahoma team-mate Powers|
|MLB preview: Projecting AL Central|
|Krstajic: Jovic can play for Barcelona|
|Zion Williamson and five other stars to watch during March Madness|
|Low hints Neuer to start Euro 2020 qualifiers as first-choice goalkeeper|
|Low allays Sane injury fears after crude challenge|
|Wales fresh for Slovakia clash – Giggs|
|ES Tunis to face CS Constantine in CAF Champions League quarter-finals|
|Renato Sanches ´not happy´ at Bayern Munich|
20 de marzo 2019
|Germany 1 Serbia 1: Goretzka salvages draw for Low´s new-look side|
|Wales 1 Trinidad and Tobago 0: Woodburn late show boosts Giggs|
|Germany fans pay tribute to axed trio Hummels, Muller and Boateng|
|Bucks forward Mirotic out two to four weeks|
|Mourinho sacked due to results, not player power – Pogba|
|Lukaku out of Russia game, Belgium boss Martinez confirms|
|Tudor replaces Nicola at Udinese|
|Bert van Marwijk appointed by UAE|
|Klostermann handed Germany debut, Neuer preferred to Ter Stegen in new-look team|
|Halep brings in Dobre as new coach|
|NRL Opta facts: Burgess and Murray out to repeat strong starts in round two|
|Harper happy Trout blew him out the water|
|Morata unsurprised by reported Man City interest in Saul|
|Injured Alexander-Arnold pulls out of England squad|
|Martinez wants Icardi resolution|
|Morata defends Simeone from criticism|
|Pogba: Real Madrid is a dream for anyone|
|Tierney joins Robertson in missing Kazakhstan-Scotland|
|Ichiro´s standing ovation & A´s pitching woes - Five things you may have missed from MLB opener|
|De Jong asked Koeman for Barcelona advice|
|Proteas duo Ngidi and Nortje ruled out of IPL|
|Meet Brody Oliver - The engineering graduate set to test his NFL mettle|
|Rayo Vallecano reappoint Paco Jemez|
|Neres, Rice, Zaniolo and the most exciting debutants of the international break|
|Giroud hints at Lyon interest|
|PRB confirms all four Welsh regions will remain next season|
|Salah goals will come again, believes Klopp|
|Casillas to end career at Porto after signing new deal|
|Pogba wants Solskjaer to get permanent Manchester United job|
|Vunipola defends captain Farrell|
|Crazy season is testing Tottenham´s character, says Rose|
|Anscombe warns of potential Wales exodus|
|54 shots and lose 1-0 - Nacional Potosi suffer ultimate smash-and-grab defeat|
|Middleton: Bucks itching for the playoffs|
|SANZAAR to clarify Super Rugby future amid reports of Sunwolves axe|
|Trippier admits he ´could have done better´ for Tottenham|
|Thompson non-committal over World Cup|
|Heaton hails ´outstanding´ England rival Pickford|
|Ronaldo doesn´t have to prove anything – Cancelo|
|Bucks hand Lakers fourth consecutive loss|
|Menotti worried about ´very tired´ Messi|
|Gabriel Jesus: Post-World Cup most difficult moment of career|
|Rockets´ James Harden makes NBA history|
|Musso honoured to have Messi back with Argentina|
|Clippers coach Rivers denies report he´s interested in Lakers job|
|Former Packers linebacker Matthews signs with Rams|
|MLB preview: Projecting AL East|
|Raiders sign linebacker Burfict|
|Adrien´s a prisoner at PSG – Rabiot´s mother slams Ligue 1 champs|
|Navas criticises Solari over lack of Madrid chances|
|Vinicius: I chose Madrid project over Barca money|
|Griezmann´s sister denies Barcelona contact|
|Barkley on Beckham trade: I was sad to see him go|
|Fleming steps down as Stars head coach|
|Rain washes out Miami Open as Andreescu prepares for action|
|PSG condemn ex-Manchester United defender Evra´s comments|