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30 stats for Messi's 30th birthday

Barcelona
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Sabella's search for tactical balance

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil -- Alejandro Sabella achieved his first objective. It's not about leading an extraordinary Argentina and administering a thrashing in every game. The first step for the coach is to achieve the desired balance, and he doesn't deviate from his principles.

Following a week fraught with rumours, possibly the toughest of his reign, Sabella faced the press with his customary composure. He took his time to respond to everything, with patience and warmth. He didn't waver in spite of the insistent questions.

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Twenty-four hours before Argentina's second game against Iran, the press continued to hit out at the tactical change following the first half at the Maracana, and above all, at Lionel Messi's opinion in favor of 4-3-3 and against 5-3-2.

"Leo's opinions didn't annoy me at all. He'd already said these things. He did so with the greatest respect. We've got a very friendly atmosphere. There's a great team spirit," said the coach, in his role as peacemaker.

What's certain is that the statements of Messi and his colleagues were not surprising in terms of their content, but rather for having been made public. They would have been expected to speak to the former Estudiantes coach about this. But maybe not, if they'd have wound him up so much.

The coach put forward a concise and irrefutable argument to calm any fears of persecution: "Here we have freedom. The game finished and Messi went to the news conference. I could have sent someone else." A forceful response.

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella is flexible in his tactical plans at the World Cup.

If Sabella was never a fan of confrontation, then why did he resort to just that, in the most important professional challenge of his life? In the news conference, he continued to deny any problems, in search of the harmony that a squad needs to become world champions.

There were so many concerns about Messi's comments and the performance against Bosnia-Herzegovina that it took some time for the coach to confirm that he will set the team up in the system that the players want. However, he didn't rule out a return to using five defenders in the future.

In a moment of great reflection, the coach pondered that, "If you aren't self-critical, they say you're stubborn. If you're self-critical, they say you're weak. You have to think of what's best for the team." And he thereby silenced those who thought he had no power over the squad.

Finally, he bid farewell with a phrase that summed up the entire situation: "One can never know too much. There's a reason we have two ears and one mouth. It's better to listen than to speak."

If you listen to Sabella, you will inevitably associate him with balance.