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Sampaoli defends Messi and begs for forgiveness

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Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli defended Lionel Messi and begged fans for forgiveness after their World Cup hopes were dealt a huge blow by Croatia on Thursday.

La Albiceleste were beaten 3-0 and now have to win their final group game and hope results elsewhere go in their favour if they are to make it to the last 16.

Messi had a tough game but Sampaoli took responsibility for the result and explained why it was so difficult for the Barcelona ace.

“He is our captain, he leads the team and we quite simply couldn’t pass to him to help him generate the situations he is used to. We worked to give him the ball but the opponent also worked hard to prevent him from getting the ball. We lost that battle,” he said.

“I have always looked for the best position on the pitch for my players. The players have a special responsibility as well, but we didn’t manage to find relationships that Argentina or Lionel Messi benefited from.

“I would beg [fans] for their forgiveness, and I repeat, I am the one responsible for the result. I am just as dreamy-eyed as any fan and I am very hurt. I did the best job I could and I couldn’t find a way to give them what they wanted.”

Source | BBC Sport

Messi’s performances at the World Cup have inevitably led to comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo and Sampaoli also spoke about both players.

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because the reality of the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment,” he added.

“Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.”

Source | BBC Sport

An awful error from goalkeeper Willy Caballero gifted Croatia the lead and further goals from Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic sealed a deserved win.

Rakitic had a great game and although it’s great to see him thrive, it’s really sad to see Messi having such a tough time.