Argentina needs to stop worrying. That’s easier said than done. Not even the return of Lionel Messi from a three-game absence managed to save Argentina from its latest defeat in World Cup qualifying.
“We have to change our mindset. To change our mindset above all, because this team has great players,” Messi said after the 3-0 defeat to Brazil on Thursday.
The players’ psyche appears to have become a big hurdle to overcome after two losses and two draws in its last four games in the South American qualifiers.
“When one’s head is not fine, the legs do not respond,” Messi said. “We have to think positive to change this situation.”
The path to the next World Cup is getting tougher, with Argentina now out of the top four that guarantees direct spots at the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, and even the fifth place that plays an intercontinental playoff.
“We have to (be) mentally strong. We have no margin of error,” defender Pablo Zabaleta said.
Striker Sergio Aguero was on the same page, arguing the team has to “change the mindset” for its match against third-placed Colombia on Tuesday.
It’s not looking good for Argentina, with Edgardo Bauza’s team now sixth with 16 points in 11 matches.
Many observers believe Argentina is still reeling from losing three straight finals – the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Copa America in Chile and the Copa America Centenario in the United States earlier this year.
Messi, goalkeeper Sergio Romero, midfielders Javier Mascherano and Angel Di Maria and strikers Gonzalo Higuain and Aguero were present in all three.
In the current qualifiers, despite having Messi, Higuain and Aguero, Argentina has scored only 11 goals – less than half of the 26 scored by leaders Brazil. Only Bolivia, with nine goals, has scored less.
Bauza has suggested his team gets disheartened when its opponents score. That’s what happened on Thursday.
“After Brazil’s first goal, we went to the floor psychologically,” said midfielder Lucas Biglia.