The hours following Argentina’s defeat to Croatia must have been long for Lionel Messi and coach Jorge Sampaoli, who have taken the brunt of the criticism for Argentina’s misfortunes to date.
Their continuous ups and downs have disoriented the team, leaving a group of players that haven’t gelled together or been able to get the best out of Messi. Especially painful for Sampaoli was his unsuccessful gamble on goalkeeper Willy Cabellero. With Manchester United’s Sergio Romero injured, the Argentinean coach opted for Chelsea reserve keeper Cabellero, when he could have chosen River Plate’s number one Franco Armani, who has long been one of the best keepers in the Americas.
Aguero's actions show the trouble in camp
The tension in camp was made plain for all to see in the mixed zone following the Croatia game. “Let him (Sampaoli) say what he wants,” said Sergio Aguero when asked to respond to comments made by the coach regarding the team's performance, before storming away from the interview. The Manchester City striker’s comments and actions show there is a problem in the dressing room that goes far beyond one bad result.
Several Argentinian media outlets have reported that the option was considered to replace Sampaoli in the dugout with team director Jorge Burruchaga before the game against Nigeria. According to these reports, the players attended a late night meeting and asked that Sampaoli be removed before their final group game against the African side, which they now must win to have any hope of progressing to the round of 16.
But letting Sampaoli go would seem unfeasible for the AFA, considering they would have to give him a 20 million euro pay out, when they still have outstanding debts with previous coaches, Edgardo Bauza and Gerardo Martino. This is the tumultuous situation Argentina find themselves in, and Messi and Sampaoli are in the eye of the storm.