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ESPN FC Posted by ESPN staff
Jul 4, 2014

Sabella: Any side would rely on Messi

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots believes his team-oriented approach can overcome the individual brilliance of Lionel Messi and Argentina when the two sides meet in the World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday.

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella says any nation with Lionel Messi in their team would be reliant on his performances.

- Delaney: Messi vs. Courtois an intriguing sub-plot
- Van Walle: Belgium ready for new chapter vs. Argentina

Despite having reached the quarterfinal stage of the World Cup -- where they will play Belgium on Saturday -- the Albiceleste have been criticised for being overdependent on their captain.

Messi, 27, has scored four goals to help his side book their place in the last eight, while he also provided the crucial assist for Angel Di Maria's last-minute winner in the round-of-16 victory over Switzerland.

But Sabella told his prematch news conference: "Messi dependence? Any team that has a player like Messi will depend on him.

"The fact that he is doing what he has been doing shows that he is the best in the world, but there's more to this team.

"Against Switzerland, [Rodrigo] Palacio was the one who won the ball in midfield before he set up Messi ahead of the goal. Without Palacio, we would not have scored that goal.

"One always expects Messi to do something different. He can always surprise and do something unexpected. But then again, it's not really a surprise anymore with Messi when he does something unexpected.

"Four years ago, Messi was criticised and now we are believed to be too reliant on him..."

Sabella went on to stress that Argentina cannot afford to be complacent going into Saturday's clash, recalling his nation's loss to the Red Devils at the 1982 World Cup.

"Belgium have a very good team, they have a bit of a golden generation. They had a similar generation in 1982 that beat Argentina," he said.

"They have a lot of players who play in the Premier League. They're a powerful team and we have to take our measures.

"Belgium have some superb individual players and work very well as a team. They have one of the best goalkeepers in the world [Thibaut Courtois] and their defenders play at great clubs in big leagues."

The Argentina boss added that the team traditionally have to deal with unreasonable expectations from back home.

"It's a cultural issue. It's the way we are," he said. "When I was little I always heard that we were the best in the world. However, we had not been world champions [before winning the World Cup in 1978].

"We thought we were the best. It is part of our culture. We will wait to see if we can cross that line."

Sabella also insisted that Gonzalo Higuain is doing a great job for the team, despite the striker having yet to score at the World Cup.

"He is improving every day. In the last match he ran more than any other player. He sacrifices himself for the team," he said. "We all have a lot of confidence in him because he is a great player who is doing a great job for the team. What's missing is the goalscoring.''

Higuain himself says he is not getting worried about his lack of goals in Brazil.

"All strikers need to score goals, but also help the team,'' he told a news conference. "I'm staying calm. Hopefully the goal will arrive soon.''

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