Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella has admitted his side are too dependent on Lionel Messi, ahead of their Group F finale against Nigeria this afternoon.
Argentina have already booked their place in the last 16, following 2-1 and 1-0 wins over Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iran, respectively, with a draw against the African side enough to see them finish as group-winners.
They were only saved from embarrassment on both occasions, however, after moments of individual brilliance by Messi and Sabella concedes that his side are far too reliant on their talismanic captain.
‘When you have a player like Lionel Messi there is always a bit of dependence,’ he said. ‘We have to work to be less reliant on him but it’s always going to be there.'
‘Argentina had eight opportunities to score the other day. Do I think we played well? No, but we had those chances to score against a team that was fully defensive.’
While boasting a truly glittering club career with Barcelona, Messi’s performances for Argentina have continued to cover under criticism over recent years, despite an impressive record of 40 goals in 88 appearances.
Having failed to shine at the previous two World Cups, the side nevertheless arrived in Brazil with their hopes pinned squarely on the 26-year-old’s shoulders, with this seen as the defining tournament for the superstar to cement his place among the all-time greats of the game.
Far from a one-man outfit though, with Sabella boasting the likes of Sergio Aguero, Angel di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain in his lineup, lacklustre displays in their opening two games have as such been seen as highly concerning for a side hailed as one of the pre-tournament favourites.
A convincing win over Nigeria would go a long way towards easing concerns, but the fact they have yet to be seriously tested so far this summer leaves some lingering questions as Messi and is teammates gear up for the knockout stages.