BUENOS AIRES - Argentina are playing badly
at the Copa America because the whole squad are underperforming,
leading players said while defending Lionel Messi from attacks
by media and fans.
"Lionel's feeling very bad... it's the first time he's been
whistled [at a match], this is very hard," Messi's father Jorge
told local Radio 10 referring to Wednesday's 0-0 draw with
Colombia in Santa Fe.
The hosts drew their first two matches against Bolivia and
Colombia and need to beat a second-string Costa Rica side in
their final Group A match on Monday in Cordoba to secure a
quarter-final berth in a tournament they started as favourites.
Coach Sergio Batista's team have been a disappointment with
their play and few goal chances and might have lost both
"The truth is that the individual level of all [of us] is
not the best and that rebounds on the team," captain Javier
Mascherano told a news conference at Argentina's training base
outside the capital.
"Leo's case is not isolated. We all feel frustration. That
doesn't mean Argentina are playing badly because of Messi's
fault, but rather the reverse," the holding midfielder said.
A fair bit of the criticism from media and fans has been
aimed at Messi who was expected to be the outstanding player of
the tournament but has yet to deliver.
Experienced full-back Javier Zanetti also tried to lift the
responsibility from Messi, who during the 2010 World Cup
qualifiers was criticised for not playing as well for Argentina
as he does for European champions Barcelona.
"We didn't expect a start to the Copa like this one... it's
down to us to play a great match [against Costa Rica], try to
get Argentina playing well, pleasing the fans and surely the
path will be different," Zanetti said.
Mascherano, Messi's Barcelona team-mate, said Argentina
needed from Monday to play "another Copa America" against Costa
Ricans motivated by their surprise win over Bolivia.
"There's not much time to feel sorry, we have to pick up our
heads, analyse what we did wrong and improve for Monday because
it's a final and we have to win it," he said.
Batista's possession tactics were found wanting by
well-organised opponents and both Mascherano and Zanetti said
they were open to changes against Costa Rica.
"Batista likes to play good football, but if he has to
change to benefit the team, he'll surely do so. We're well aware
we're not generating football," said Mascherano.
"For us it would be no drama [to change]. When you change
the system, you do it believing that's how you'll play better."
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