Argentina must get most out of Lionel Messi in World Cup - Lucas Biglia
Argentina international Lucas Biglia believes his national team is "ordinary" without Lionel Messi yet admits the South American giants must learn how to get the best out of the Barcelona superstar without wearing him out.
Messi scored a hat trick in Argentina's final qualifier, a 3-1 win at Ecuador on Oct. 10, to book their place in the World Cup in Russia.
The Albiceleste went into that game in danger of missing out not only on direct qualification but even a spot in the playoffs.
"We got accustomed to throwing a big weight on Messi's shoulders, all the responsibility on him," Biglia, who along with Messi has lost three straight finals with Argentina -- including the 2014 World Cup -- told Fox Sports Argentina. "We depend a lot on Messi and that is not good. We need to learn to use him and not wear him out."
Several Argentina greats, including Diego Maradona and Mario Kempes, believe the Albiceleste rely too much on Messi and warn that must change if the country is to have any success in Russia.
Biglia said it's a dilemma with no easy solution.
"As much as we learn to play without Messi, we depend on him because he can change the game in a second," the AC Milan midfielder added. "The problem is learning not to depend on him and not be too obvious in our play, but this is something very difficult when you have a player of his magnitude.
"We always want to give him the ball and for him to sort things out. If we learn to use Lionel well, with him we are going to be strong, we can be candidates [for the World Cup]. Without him, we are an ordinary national team."
Argentina have yet to find their best form under coach Jorge Sampaoli, who was appointed after Edgardo Bauza was sacked last May.
Biglia is hopeful his team will reach the World Cup in the best possible way.
"Sampaoli arrived at the most complicated time for Argentinian football," the 32-year-old said. "He is giving Argentina a system of play. We have to work hard to become a difficult rival. Today, Argentina is not a candidate to win the World Cup. We have to work a lot.
"The best way to arrive at the World Cup is for no one to be injured and to play better than we have done. If we go to the World Cup thinking already about the finals we lost then we will already be at a disadvantage. The best is to leave all that behind and start again with fresh enthusiasm."
Argentina will face Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria in Group D at the World Cup, which begins on June 14.
"It's not an easy group and whoever thinks otherwise knows nothing about football," Biglia said.
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.