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FIFA World Cup winner and Argentine legend, Diego Maradona, has said Jorge Sampaoli has Lionel Messi to thank for covering up all the Argentina lapses.

Maradona, who almost single-handedly won the 1986 World Cup for his country in Mexico, believes the present team does not have a midfield deserving of their status.

“We have no midfield deserving of the name,” Maradona lamented to El Popular. “[Lucas] Biglia – with all the respect in the world that he deserves from me, how could it be imagined he’d be wearing the national team shirt?

“Today, except for Messi, people have lost respect for the Argentina team. Nobody is afraid of us.

“Look at the last game with Nigeria. We almost conceded eight goals. You know what happened in my time in a game like that.

“But Sampaoli is lucky. If the baby [Messi] is on fire, he will cover for all the mistakes.

“We have a 60 per cent chance of being champions [at the World Cup]. Why? Because the others can make up the choir, but they can never replace him as the singer. He’s the only singer.

“It hurts me a lot, but the reality is that it’s going badly for us and I can’t see a way out. The title would be: ‘After Messi, what next?

He was also scathing on Sampaoli’s preference for Mauro Icardi as against Gonzalo Higuain.

“It’s embarrassing to rely on Icardi. Pipa [Higuain] is 10 times better than Icardi,” he said. “That guy [Sampaoli] doesn’t know anything. The only thing he knows is what he’s going to eat at his friend’s house. Pipa has to have a new chance.”

Argentina kick off their third World Cup quest against Iceland on June 16. After that, they will meet Croatia on June 21 with their last group game against Nigeria on June 26 at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.

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