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Argentina: More than just Messi


– 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 today’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 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.

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 Messi.

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.”