Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi helped to inspire Argentina to a famous win against Nigeria when he delivered the half-time team talk, a teammate has revealed.
Marcos Rojo – who scored the winner to take Argentina into the knockout stages – said that it was Messi, rather than coach Jorge Sampioli who gave the team talk and that it helped inspire the players.
Messi had let by example in the pitch in the first half with an expertly taken goal. But off the pitch at half-time he also showed his leadership qualities.
“Messi came up to us and told us to calm down and not be stressed,” Rojo said. “We felt nervous and that message helped us a lot and gave me personally a huge confidence boost. Messi is our captain and he is the best captain in the world.”
Rojo added that he had urged the team forward and not to surrender and save their country’s honour.
TV pictures also picked up Sampioli apparently asking Messi if he was to bring on Sergio Aguero after he walked past the technical area to deliver a message to an official.
Rojo added that Messi had told him to run forward from the back. “He told everyone to attack no matter what,” he said. “He truly read the game and the risks. He’s a leader. The best.”
The players are also said to have gone over Sampioli’s head and ditched the 3-5-2 system that failed against Croatia and revert to a 4-3-3 against Nigeria, which appeared to suit the players better.