World Cup 2018: We will see the best of Argentina and Lionel Messi against Nigeria, insists new Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa

The new Leeds United head coach is keeping faith in Argentina's players, captain and coach to save their World Cup

Liam Twomey
Monday 25 June 2018 14:45 BST
Argentina World Cup profile

Argentina and captain Lionel Messi will find “a different style of performance” when they face Nigeria on Tuesday with their World Cup on the line, according to Marcelo Bielsa.

A humiliating 3-0 defeat to Croatia on Thursday has left Argentina in crisis, with reports that the players tried and failed to have coach Jorge Sampaoli sacked in the wake of the result.

Anything less than a victory over Nigeria in Saint Petersburg will see Argentina eliminated at the group stage of a World Cup for the first time since 2002, when Bielsa was in charge.

But speaking at his unveiling as the new head coach of Leeds United, Bielsa insisted that he still has faith in Argentina, in Messi and in Sampaoli, who succeeded him in charge of Chile in 2012.

“I think we’re going to see the best of Argentina from tomorrow onwards,” he said. “I firmly believe in the quality of the players and in particular Messi’s leadership, which I believe will come to the fore and be evident.

“I’m convinced also by the knowledge of the backroom staff and the management team. Their wisdom and knowledge will show itself. I think the two matches we’ve seen so far will be used as a grounding to put in a style of play that the national team wants to see.

“They will move on in a positive way.

“I’ve got a huge amount of faith in both the coach and the staff and also the players. From tomorrow you will see a different style of performance.”

Argentina must beat Nigeria and hope that Iceland fail to win against Croatia, who have already qualified for the round of 16 and require only one point to secure top spot in Group D.

Regardless of whether or not they succeed, Bielsa’s professional focus is now fully on Leeds, and he admitted that the club has a significant amount of work to do in the transfer market.

“I’ve seen all 51 games played last season, plus the friendlies in Asia,” he added. “I’ve got opinions and made my mind up about all the players.

“The club have 15 players more than they need. And we still need four or five different positions on the field where we need to strengthen. I think moving forward in a football sense, the squad shouldn’t be too numerous, with too many players who aren’t getting game time.

“Anybody leaving will be more due to the fact I like a trimmed down, lean squad so everyone is getting regular game time.

“[But] I can’t ignore the fact there are 46 games in this competition and the potential that 18-20 weeks where you play two games per week if we’ve made progress in the cup competitions.

“We have one or two youngsters who could be available in this situation so that we can add those to the squad as a whole, but we might need to add one or two more players.”

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