FIFA World Cup 2018: Where is Argentina's focus? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 25, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:28 AM, June 25, 2018

Where is Argentina's focus?

When Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli hugged star forward Lionel Messi on his 31st birthday yesterday, understandably not one of the best of days for the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, ahead of a training session at the tranquil Spanish sports school facility in Bronnitsy, all appeared to be well in the Albiceleste camp following a few turbulent days.

In the meantime, Argentina's senior member Javier Mascherano outright rejected the revolt against the coach during a press briefing close to the training ground. It was an attempt to put behind all the distractions that Argentina have faced since that chastening 3-0 defeat to Croatia, which left their World Cup hopes in tatters.

It was a crisis that even saw the Argentina football chief attend the briefing and put all the blame on the media.

"It would seem that they want to damage the image of the national team," Argentine Football Association (AFA) president Claudio Tapia told reporters while referring to all the negative news ranging from the players' revolt against Sampaoli's coaching staff to the rumours swirling around the possibility of sacking the coach.

However, the AFA boss assured that Sampaoli would remain in charge for "a very important sporting possibility" tomorrow when Argentina take on Nigeria in a do-or-die Group D fixture at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.

Mascherano, reported widely as one of the main conspirators alongside Messi, said that the disturbing reports were not helping their cause.

"We had a meeting with the desire to put in our bit and get out of this situation, improve and achieve the goal of qualifying for the knockout stage, unfortunately all the noise (media reports) do not help at all,” said the chief.

This is something Argentine football lived through in the past. However, they can only overcome the present crisis with a win against Nigeria. A win may not guarantee Sampaoli's job but at least it will keep Argentina and their followers across the world alive in the World Cup.

To do that though, they need to solely focus on their next game against Nigeria. Mascherano was spot on when he said: "We try to focus on what we can control and what we can control is Tuesday's game, the situation is complex and we are responsible for that, we try to find solutions while we have the possibility of having one more chance."

The world will watch how Argentina react. Any result other than a convincing win will not only throw them out of the World Cup but will label Bronnitsy's otherwise brilliant Spanish facility, a powerhouse in the production of future footballers, as a den of self-destructive conspirators.

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