Man City legend Pablo Zabaleta admits he is “absolutely devastated” by Argentina’s shock World Cup defeat to Saudi Arabia – but tells critics “not to go too hard” on Lionel Messi and Co or blame manager Lionel Scaloni
Former Argentina and Man City star Pablo Zabaleta has defended Lionel Messi after his uninspiring performance against Saudi Arabia saw the World Cup favorites suffer a shock 2-1 defeat in their opening match.
Argentina could not have imagined a more disastrous start to the tournament after being outclassed during the defeat that saw minnows Saudi Arabia return to claim a historic upset.
Seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi was unable to drag his side into what should have been a favorable opening game that many expected Argentina to not only win but dominate.
Argentina players were devastated after losing to Saudi Arabia in the World Cup on Tuesday
Lionel Messi (left) was helpless to stop Saudi Arabia’s second-half dominance in Qatar
Argentina and Man City legend Pablo Zabaleta defended Messi to return against Mexico
Zabaleta made 58 appearances for the national team during his illustrious career but could not hide his pain when commenting on Tuesday’s disappointing loss to the Middle East.
Zabaleta sarcastically claimed it was a “great day” for the country, before claiming there would be a lot of “disappointment and anger” in the Argentina camp, as a pundit on the BBC’s World Cup coverage.
Messi failed to inspire Argentina to victory
‘What a nice day! I am completely devastated. We didn’t expect it, but it was one of those days and we have to give a lot of credit to SA. They had a high line, brave, aggressive, he said.
– When Messi scored we thought the game was over, we controlled possession and all that. There will be a lot of disappointment and anger.
A lot of people said Argentina was one of the favorites and there were high expectations – and I hate when something like that happens because you can’t underestimate any team.
‘Of course [they can still win the World Cup.] There is still a long way to go, he added.
However, Zabaleta refused to criticize Messi for his underwhelming performance in what is likely to be the 35-year-old’s last World Cup.
Messi put Argentina ahead with a well-taken penalty in the first half, but could do little to change the final score of the match as Saudi Arabia produced their best performance.
Argentina was one of the favorites to lift the World Cup heading into the tournament
Messi scored Argentina’s only goal of the game when his 10th minute penalty put them ahead
The PSG superstar missed key opportunities to pull the South American nation back into the side but failed to replicate his scintillating club form in Qatar.
“Everybody wants to support him, it was one of those days. He has been amazing and it was just one of those days. “We can’t go too hard on the players or blame the manager,” Zabaleta said.