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Messi's happiness key to Argentina - coach

05 Sep 2011 13:30:10

Messi's happiness key to Argentina - coach

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said on Monday that the key to his team's success was to ensure that superstar Lionel Messi, widely seen as the world's best player, enjoys his football.

Messi has been central to Barcelona's astounding success in the past few seasons, but he has failed to show the same kind of scintillating form for his country.

"We must let him be happy. We must let him play completely freely on the pitch," Sabella, 56, said at a press conference after arriving in Bangladesh on the second leg of the side's short South Asian tour.

The new coach said he has struck up a good relationship with Messi, who was named captain ahead of the two friendlies, one in India against Venezuela last week and the second in Bangladesh on Tuesday against Nigeria.

Argentina won the match in Kolkata 1-0, with a Messi corner setting up the goal for Nicolas Otamendi.

Sabella said Messi would repeat his prolific scoring feats at Barcelona for Argentina once he had settled in as national captain.

"I am waiting for him to score. We must give him the tranquility. He is the best player in the world," Sabella said, as his side prepares for World Cup 2014 qualifiers starting next month.

Argentina disappointed home fans in the Copa America in July when they lost to eventual winners Uruguay in the quarter-finals. The Copa failure cost Sergio Batista his job as national coach and led to Sabella's appointment.

Sabella would not reveal his team for Tuesday's game in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka but said the side had no grudge against the opposition, who beat Argentina's second team 4-1 in Nigeria in June.

"I don't think revenge is a good word. It's not good for human beings. It's not good for anyone. It's a football game and we'll try to win," he said.

"It's a different game. It's a different country. A neutral country. We don't have too much time to prepare. I am a new coach. I just started to know all the players and the players started to know me," he added.

English newspaper The Guardian has reported that the world soccer body FIFA was probing heavy betting on a late goal being scored in the game in June, where Nigeria took on an under-strength Argentina.

Nigeria won the match 4-1, but Argentina scored from a contested penalty in the eighth-minute of injury time.

Messi's arrival in Bangladesh -- which has never hosted top-class international football before -- drew scores of fans wearing Argentinian jerseys to the airport while many others camped outside the team hotel.

But fans have complained bitterly about being unable to afford the minimum ticket price of $100 to get into the 24,000-capacity Bangabandhu National Stadium.


AFP

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