Sampaoli: I’m to blame for Messi’s problems

Head coach Jorge Sampaoli insists he is to blame for Argentina lying on the brink of World Cup elimination and not Lionel Messi.

Argentina were thrashed 3-0 by Croatia on Thursday, which left Sampaoli’s side facing an uphill battle to reach the knockout stages in Russia.

In stark contrast to La Liga rival Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi has struggled in his opening two World Cup games after following his penalty miss against Iceland with an anonymous showing against an impressive Croatian side.

But Argentina boss Sampaoli says his tactics are behind Messi’s struggles after apologising for a result which needs the South American country needing results elsewhere to go their way.

“I think Cristiano is a great player – you can look at all he has achieved as a player with his club and his country,” said Sampaoli.

“Right now we shouldn’t compare these two players. I think because of the reality of the Argentinian squad, it clouds Leo’s brilliance.

“Leo is limited because the team doesn’t gel ideally with him as it should.

“As coaches, we need to realise these things and try to deal with them and I’m the one that needs to accept it.

“It’s been a long time as a coach since I’ve been through this experience and it’s much more painful when I’m wearing the jersey of my country.”