It appears that Argentina’s players do indeed have control of their team.
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After a widely reported bust-up with manager Jorge Sampaoli following their first two World Cup group games, it is believed senior members of the squad selected the team on Tuesday against Nigeria as La Albiceleste won 2-1 and advanced to the last 16.
Some intriguing photos and videos have emerged from Argentina’s dramatic and emotional win, as Sampaoli can be seen in one clip appearing to ask captain Lionel Messi: “should I bring on Kun [Aguero]?” To which Messi nods.
Aguero came on moments later.
There is also the photo above of Messi at half time in the tunnel area where he looks to be giving a team talk. It’s not too uncommon for players to congregate in the tunnel area at half time and have a quick chat before they head back out onto the pitch, but this did seem quite organized.
And before Cristian Pavon came on as a substitute some of his teammates seemed to be giving him very clear instructions from the bench on what to do.
It was all, well, very odd.
Several reports state that Sampaoli has very little control over team selection and that specifically his players want to play with a solid back four instead of a three-man defense.
They also believe that Sampaoli’s one-dimensional tactics of high-pressing do not get the best out of their experienced squad and so the word is they pleaded for a back four and then tried to get as many attacking players on the pitch as possible during the win over Nigeria.
It worked, somewhat, and Ever Banega was especially key in central midfield as his control of the tempo of the game allowed Messi to roam, create and ultimately deliver further forward in more dangerous areas.
Sampaoli will continue to be under plenty of scrutiny in the coming days as Argentina prepare to take on France in Kazan in their last 16 clash, as it appears that the players are indeed calling the shots during their World Cup campaign.
What a time to be alive.