Messi defends Maradona after WC woe

ByDermot Corrigan ESPN logo
Saturday, June 14, 2014

Lionel Messi says Argentina's players, not then-coach Diego Maradona, were to blame for their poor showing at the last World Cup.

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With the 2014 tournament about to start, current Albiceleste manager Alejandro Sabella is being widely praised for his relaxed mood and tactically astute approach.

Such praise often comes with a comparison to the chaotically disorganised side which was thrashed 4-0 by Germany in the quarterfinals four years ago.

But the Argentina captain told DeporTV, according to AS, that such disparagement of Maradona's management style was unfair and the players should have taken the blame for what happened in South Africa.

"We got on very well, he has his special way of communicating things," Messi said. "Sometimes it is easier to blame the coach than the players, who were the ones truly responsible for the elimination."

Messi, now 26, also said that he still remembered the personal criticism he received in 2006 when Argentina were also eliminated at the quarterfinal stage by Germany and some onlookers suggested the Barcelona-based teenager had not been hurt by the defeat as he was detached from his home country.

"It was nice as my first experience of the tournament, but after being knocked out they were very unfair with me, because the national team had played very well," he said. "They said getting knocked out had not hurt me, and it was not like that."

Ahead of Argentina's opening game in this year's tournament, against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro, Messi said he was confident that he and his teammates had learnt from their mistakes during recent finals.

"I am really looking forward to the tournament, I believe I have learned from what I did badly in the previous finals so as not to repeat those mistakes," he said.

"I have no doubts there is a lot of excitement, with a group which is very solid and has not lost for a long time. We lose few games, and when we do it is playing well or not deserving to."

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