The Barcelona superstar missed a penalty in Argentinas Group D opener against Iceland and failed to exert any influence during last nights 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Croatia.
While long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo currently leads the race for the Golden Boot, Messi is trailing in the Real Madrid forwards wake with Argentina facing the distinct possibility of crashing out at the group stage.
Attempting to explain Messis performances, Sampaoli said: Because of the reality of the Argentina squad, it sort of clouds Leos brilliance. Leo is limited because the team doesnt gel with him as ideally as it should.
Argentina never recovered from the Willy Caballeros mistake which gifted Ante Rebic a 53rd minute opening goal. A sublime Luka Modric and a late Ivan Rakitic strike put the gloss on a convincing win but Sampaoli refused to put the blame on the hapless Chelsea goalkeeper.
Its not right to blame Caballero, he added. If Id planned things differently, it would have worked out differently.
I honestly thought the plan for this match was going to put pressure on the opponent. But after the disaster of the first goal, it was tough, we were lost emotionally.
Our driving force is Leo, but we couldnt find him. We work as a team to get the ball to Leo, but also the other team works to avoid that.
There is shame, pain, at not delivering for the Argentine people. Its been a long time since I felt like this, and now its happening with the shirt of my own country. It hurts badly.
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