“We still haven’t got started,” said Diego Maradona in a crunching analysis of Argentina’s performance in the FIFA World Cup 2014 so far. Argentina will be playing Belgium in a quarterfinal match in Brasilia on Saturday and Maradona feels the team could be in trouble if they play the way they did against Switzerland in the last-16 stage.
Maradona has been a strong critic of the Argentine side. The legendary striker, who won the 1986 World Cup with Argentina, said the over-dependence of Lionel Messi has been counter-productive. Maradona has warned that if Argentina crash out, Messi should not be made a scapegoat.
“They need to get it into their heads that we can’t be ‘Sporting Messi’. Maybe he can score a great goal … but if it doesn’t come off for the kid, we can’t jump on him tomorrow as if he’s guilty of the Argentine disaster,” Maradona said on Venezuelan TV. Interestingly, there are murmurs that Maradona could become the coach of Venezuela.
Argentina edged past Switzerland by a last-gasp extra-time goal. It was a lucky escape against a rugged Swiss team that was denied by the post in the dying seconds of a well-contested game.
Known for controversial comments, Maradona says Argentina are playing “at 40 per cent of their capability,” and if they don’t improve against the gritty Belgians, there could be disaster for the Latin Americans.
Messi has finished Man-of-the-Match in each game, and scored four of Argentina’s seven goals. But the one-goal wins have been rather unimpressive only highlighting the fact that other players were expected to make bigger contributions.
“The kid (Messi) is very alone … The team doesn’t have a change of rhythm, movements in its strikers,” said Maradona, saying the players lacked a give-it-all attitude.
“I feel something very strong inside, like bitterness, rage, frustration, because Argentina can play much, much better … The coach has to impose this.” If they do not improve against Belgium, “we’re in trouble,” he said.
Argentina have won the World Cup twice and would love to lift it for a third time on the soil of their great rivals Brazil. The hosts are gunning for a sixth title and have never won at home.