Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli has denied that star player Lionel Messi is dictating issues such as substitutions.
Sampaoli says he was informing rather than consulting Messi in an exchange during the team’s last World Cup match that some have interpreted as him ceding authority to the Barcelona man.
The footage showed Sampaoli having a discussion with Messi, before bringing on striker Sergio Aguero as a substitute during the dramatic 2-1 win over Nigeria that secured Argentina’s passage to the last 16.
But, speaking on the eve of that second-round clash with France, Sampaoli said: “I remember that point in time but everything I say to my players is personal and I will not divulge what was said.
“But it’s not how you characterised it. We had several options in attack and I was just communicating to him that we’d be using one of the strategies that we’d rehearsed.”
Sampaoli has also called on the other Argentina players to match Messi’s level as they bid for a place in the quarter-finals at the Kazan Arena on Saturday.
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli praises Lionel Messi after reports the pair had fallen out during the World Cup
Sampaoli said: “Leo has such clear vision when it comes to football that he allows us to see things that, sometimes, only a true genius sees.
“It’s often difficult to be at the level of such a great player. He’s a shining light for us all, and we have to do our very best to all try to be at his level.
“I am sure France have their own plan to neutralise Leo, but we have our own plan to make his life easier – so let’s see who has the best luck executing their plan.”
Despite Argentina’s group D travails, which included a 3-0 humbling at the hands of Croatia, Sampaoli is confident they can defeat a France side who took seven points from nine in Group C.
“We have complete faith in our abilities,” said Sampaoli.
“Argentina is very strong psychologically and this will allow us to face the match with complete commitment. You will see a team which will have a lot of motivation to win.”
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