Lionel Scaloni: Lionel Messi sacrificing himself for Argentina’s good
Lionel Messi has agreed to sacrifice his usual buccaneering style of play for the greater good of his team, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said ahead of this morning's (Singapore time) crunch Copa America semi-final against Brazil.
Messi has not been able to conjure up the same attacking flair that he regularly produces for Barcelona, scoring only once in four games at the tournament and struggling to create chances for his fellow attackers.
But Scaloni believes the five-time Ballon d'Or winner can offer just as much value to his country as a workhorse.
"We are used to seeing him score three goals in every game and dribble past five players, but we are asking him to do something different, and we are more than happy with the job he is doing," said the Albiceleste coach.
"He has embraced the workload, he is our flag-bearer."
Messi, 32, threatened to quit the Argentina team after losing the 2016 Copa America final to Chile on penalties and took a break after last year's World Cup, before returning to the side in March.
Scaloni said his presence has reinvigorated the rest of the squad, reported Reuters.
He said: "The players love Messi so much that sometimes they say they want to win the tournament just for him."
Scaloni has chopped and changed his side throughout the Copa America, but seemed to stumble upon an effective formula in the 2-0 quarter-final win against Venezuela, with Lautaro Martinez and Sergio Aguero joining Messi in attack.
Argentina look to line up the same way again, with the Albiceleste boss saying Aguero would definitely start against Brazil.
Meanwhile, Selecao coach Tite said it was impossible to stop Messi, but it was possible to slow him down.
He said: "We spoke not only of the individuality of Argentina. They have grown in collective terms as well.
"The collective enhances individuality. You don't cancel out Messi, no. You can slow his actions, but you cannot neutralise his actions."
Brazil goalkeeper Alisson has thwarted Messi in the Champions League in consecutive seasons, first with AS Roma and then last season with Liverpool.
He said: "In a game like this, there is no room for error... I do not see myself as a hero. If I make saves, and the others do not convert their chances, it's no good."
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