Maradona: Lionel Messi 'very alone'

ByDermot Corrigan ESPN logo
Friday, July 4, 2014

Diego Maradona says that Lionel Messi is "alone" and single-handedly dragging a poor Argentina side through this World Cup.

Messi has been named man of the match in each of Argentina's four matches at the tournament so far, scoring four goals in their first three outings, and laying on the 118th-minute winner for teammate Angel Di Maria in Tuesday's 1-0 last-16 win over Switzerland.

In his role as pundit on Venezuelan TV show De Zurda, as reported in AS, former Argentina captain and coach Maradona was harshly critical of everyone else in Alejandro Sabella's current side.

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"It seems to me that we have not got started yet," Maradona said. "The team has no rhythm, no movement up front. The kid [Messi] is very alone. I have something very strong inside -- a bitter taste, anger, fight. Argentina have the team to do a lot better than this. They are at 40 percent [of their potential]."

Messi himself told Ole after the game that his team had "suffered" against the well-organised Swiss, and had started to get very nervous as the minutes passed and penalties loomed.

"The way the game was you had to suffer and come through moments like that, because football is like that," Messi said. "We did not want to go to to penalties, we wanted to finish the game in extra time. We felt nervous at moments because we could not score the goal, and we knew that any mistake could see us out of the competition. We were out on our feet by the end."

The Barcelona star said he had almost shot himself in the game's decisive moment, but decided at the last minute to pass to the better placed Di Maria.

"First I thought of going myself," he said. "Later I saw El Fideo [Di Maria] appear and decided to pass to him. Luckily then we could celebrate."

Messi also pointed out that a "dry and hard" surface at the Arena de Sao Paulo had made it more difficult for Argentina to move the ball quickly and break down their deep-lying opponents.

"We did not find spaces," he said. "And without making excuses, the pitch did not help. It was dry and hard, you do not know where the ball will go. That helps the opponent more if they are sitting back. But fortunately we won."

Argentina now face Belgium at the Estadio Nacional Brasilia on Saturday -- and Messi said that small margins will decide games from now on.

"Some very big countries are out, which nobody expected, and some are left which nobody expected either," he said. "We know that all games are going to be won by little details. Today we had the luck on our side, and we needed to take advantage of that and go through. This is a World Cup and nothing is easy."

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