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Sabella: No rift with Leo

Belo Horizonte: Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella on Friday denied there was any power struggle going on with Lionel Messi ahead of the Group F match against Iran, saying he wasn't offended when his star player publicly expressed his views about team tactics.

In his post-match comments, Messi was critical of Argentina’s first-half defensive formation in their World Cup opener against Bosnia and Herzegovina despite a 2-1 win. Sabella, though, welcomed Messi’s comments.

“We don't have any problem. It didn't bother me at all,” Sabella said.

“The atmosphere in the group is perfect."

“I was not hurt by Leo’s comments and he has said that before,” the Argentine said ahead of Saturday’s Group F game against Iran. “He likes to play 4-3-3 with (Angel) Di Maria up front.

“They (reporters) asked him how he likes to play and he answered what he thinks in a respectful way. We respect each other, we have a very strong team spirit. It is good to have an open dialogue with my players.

“Sometimes players learn from us (coaches) and sometimes we learn from them.”

Sabella surprisingly opted to play an extra defender in Hugo Campagnaro and sacrificed forward Gonzalo Higuain against World Cup debutants Bosnia and Herzegovina and the result was a flat first half display that belied Argentine’s status among the tournament favourites.