Argentina coach, Jorge Sampaoli
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli said his tactics are to blame for Lionel Messi's poor form at the 2018 World Cup, SkySports reports.
The Barcelona star has had more shots than any other player so far at this World Cup (12), but has failed to score with any of them and his team are on the brink of elimination following Thursday's 3-0 defeat to Croatia in Group D.
Messi's struggles are in stark contrast to his long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored four goals in his first two matches for Portugal - but Sampaoli feels Argentina's struggles have limited the impact of his star player.
He said: "I think Cristiano is a great player - you can look at all he has achieved as a player with his club and his country.
"Right now we shouldn't compare these two players. I think because of the reality of the Argentinian squad, it clouds Leo's brilliance.
"Leo is limited because the team doesn't gel ideally with him as it should. As coaches, we need to realise these things and try to deal with them and I'm the one that needs to accept it."
Argentina have picked up just one point from their opening two matches against Iceland and Croatia and must now beat Nigeria in their final match and hope other results go their way if they are to progress.
And he apologised to his nation's supporters for the disappointing displays in Russia. "I don't know about shame, but I definitely feel pain," he said.
"It's been a long time as a coach since I've been through this experience and it's much more painful when I'm wearing the jersey of my country.
"Our plan for this match didn't work out and we need to see what happens and put everything we have into the last opportunity to fight and give it out all. We have no other alternative.
"There's pain because we weren't at the level that the Argentinian people expect of us."
He added: "I beg for the fans' forgiveness. Especially for those that make the great efforts to travel and see Argentina.
"I am responsible for this result. I was just as dreamy-eyed as any fan and I am hurt by this result. I believe I did the best job I could and I quite simply did not find a way to give them what they wanted."
Willy Caballero's howler proved the turning point against Croatia, his mis-kick allowing Ante Rebic to score the opening goal - but he refused to blame his goalkeeper.
"The defeat is my responsibility because I am the coach," he said.
"I had to devise a plan for this match. Had I set things up differently, things might have turned out much better. I don't think it's realistic to put the burden on Caballero." SHARE THIS STORY USING ANY OF THE BUTTON BELOW ⬇ PLACE YOUR TEXT ADVERT BELOW ⬇⬇⬇