Monster Masch is better for Messi & Co than manager’s muddled plans

Argentina somehow battled back from a horror-show against Croatia to make the last 16, and ignoring their manager now is their best tactic...


Nothing quite sets the pulses racing like a South American footballing strop.

The best part of that opening line is that it could relate to so many things at this World Cup already; Neymar arguing with the sport itself for the physicality it allows, Luis Suarez presumably taking a chunk out of half the hotel staff that Uruguay are staying in, or Diego Maradona fighting with his hallucinations. But this piece is about none of these.

Jorge Sampaoli is often compared to Marcelo Bielsa, but the only similarity you can see between the two is how long Sampaoli held the Argentine dressing room and how long Marcelo Bielsa will last at Elland Road – about six weeks.

during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Argentina and Croatia at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on June 21, 2018 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.

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There is nobody on this planet, not even Sampaoli himself, that believes he’s in control of Argentina anymore. Maybe this side will be better off embracing their more abrasive instincts instead of hamstringing themselves with the directions of someone who is already half-way out the door.

Javier Mascherano is rumoured to be in control of the dressing room, and he’s the ultimate candidate to take on the managerial responsibilities for now, though picking himself is probably detrimental to their long-term aspirations.

Senior players can drive others in a squad further than any manager can because they know best how to maximise their own abilities. Sampaoli is the chief example of a manager doing too much.

Argentina’s forward Lionel Messi and Argentina’s midfielder Javier Mascherano embrace each other after their win in the Russia 2018 World Cup Group D football match between Nigeria and Argentina at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on June 26, 2018. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

You have a couple of the best players on the planet in Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero. You fit them in and find a shape to complement that pair, or you fail. You can stand in front of a blackboard all you like, trying to be overly clever and following the coaching manuals you read at your UEFA seminars, but the only way Argentina are going to win games is through their world class players.

However, it’s crucial that Sampaoli isn’t sacked now. Argentina don’t need to draw more attention to themselves than they’ve already done by getting rid of him now. For all the good football that Spain are playing, they don’t look themselves and that may be an after-effect of losing their boss the day before the tournament.

Argentina are better keeping him as a target for outrage.

South American sides at the World Cup are a great sight because they don’t set up like European sides, with the emphasis far more on individual brilliance than on structured play. It may be why people are becoming disenfranchised with the Premier League.

A manager trying to strip Argentina of that approach costs the nation, the players and the one billion-plus people who tune into the World Cup something that matters.

In the clash of continental styles that is the World Cup, it’s important that Argentina embrace their irrational drive if they’re to topple the boringly-brilliant Germany, the ultra-structured Spanish and the energy of youth in the French side. Sampaoli will spend the remainder of the tournament looking on at a group of players who are a law unto themselves, and that’s precisely why they’re so dangerous.

If nothing else, an Argentine triumph at this tournament will be the source of countless award-winning documentaries, with the glorious past tells the rest of the world to go stuff themselves, Maradona-style, as their current crop try to replicate his brilliance. has all the latest World Cup odds

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