Argentina vs Switzerland World Cup 2014 preview: Alejandro Sabella - 'Argentina are improving. We deserve a seven out of 10 now'

The Argentina coach will see his side come up against Switzerland for a place in the quarter-finals

Alejandro Sabella says Argentina are finally growing into this World Cup, as they prepare for their last-16 tie against Switzerland in Sao Paulo.

LIVE: The latest from Argentina vs Switzerland and Belgium vs United States

The South American side have so far been underwhelming, and required Lionel Messi to be at his absolute best to rescue them at times, with Sabella himself saying that some of their earlier displays were no better than “six out of 10”. On Monday, the manager stated that the 3-2 final group game win over Nigeria marked a step up which can be built on – especially now that the knockout games offer “no margin for error”.

Sabella said: “We’re better now. We’re improving and, in my opinion, the last match would deserve a seven [out of 10]. I know you like maths but marks are not everything.

“I have always said that results are important and performances are important. If we play like we did against Nigeria, we’ll have more opportunities so we have to play better. We have a very positive relationship [among the squad]. This group is very tight. The technical staff and the players understand each other very well.

“Obviously, this is another stage and there is no margin for error. In the group stage, there is always the possibility to recover. Not now. We know we have to be very concentrated. Every error now is more costly, also because of the level of the opposition.

“You have to be strong emotionally and psychologically. I think there’s a philosopher who once said that one gram of brain cell is more important than any muscle in the body.”

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Sabella would not confirm his line-up but it appears that Sergio Aguero will miss out after picking up a muscle injury in the Nigeria game, and that Ezequiel Lavezzi could replace him. The latter has attracted controversy at this tournament, after appearing to squirt a water bottle in Sabella’s direction when receiving tactical instructions, but the manager had only praise for him.

“Players like Lavezzi are always very positive because they keep people happy. Lavezzi has been with us since the qualifiers, often not playing, but he never has a bad look, never a bad word.

“If Lavezzi plays he can play in two different positions, as a striker or on the left wing. We can use two systems with one player.”

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At the same time, Argentina have been experimenting with 4-4-2 in training, with Messi and Gonzalo Higuain up front and Angel di Maria and Maxi Rodriguez on the wings.

Lionel Messi pictured training ahead of Argentina's game with Switzerland Lionel Messi pictured training ahead of Argentina's game with Switzerland  

Sabella also sought to play down an element of tension with Brazil, as there have been some fan disturbances around Argentina matches, with fear growing among the hosts that their neighbours could win the World Cup in Rio. The manager would not go into that, but lavished praise on the host nation.

 

“First of all, winning the World Cup is a huge motivation, obviously. We haven’t won a World Cup since 1986. It is very different to win so this is our main motivation. Anything else is just something that could be misinterpreted so I’d rather say nothing.

“Brazil is a demanding football country, but it’s lovely to live in Brazil. It’s a very nice place to work in football. Even if we are rivals, we are brothers. We are the driving force for South America. The most important thing is the supporters behave properly.”

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