Football

Argentina a team of 11 strangers: 1978 World Cup winner Kempes

World Cup winner Kempes slams La Albiceleste after 6-1 thumping by Spain

Argentina legend Mario Kempes slammed his modern contemporaries as "11 strangers" after La Albiceleste equalled their worst-ever loss when they were humbled 6-1 by Spain at the Wanda Metropolitano yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Julen Lopetegui's men ruthlessly exploited Lionel Messi's absence through injury with an Isco hat-trick complemented by goals by Diego Costa, Thiago Alcantara and Iago Aspas.

Nicolas Otamendi scored Argentina's consolation goal.

1978 World Cup and Golden Boot winner Kempes told Spanish daily Diario AS: "There's only one Messi and football is played with 11 players.

"However, Argentina looked to be 11 friends together playing football but they were strangers and they were not a team.

"The first half gave me enthusiasm... but the second half was awful and a total catastrophe."

Fellow World Cup 1978 winner Jorge Valdano, too, called the result a catastrophe, adding that Argentina's hopes at the World Cup in Russia rest solely on Messi.

He told Spanish newspaper Marca: "This result is terrible for Argentina, what happened today was a catastrophe - our nation should not be losing by such scorelines.

"Messi is the only reason to give Argentina any hope of winning the World Cup, although from what I saw of Meza's level today, we have another real footballer on our hands."

While Maximiliano Meza was singled out for praise, he admitted to Argentine broadcaster TyC Sports that he took no joy from his debut. He said: "I wanted to enjoy it , but I'm angry about how the game was lost."

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli, meanwhile, took responsibility for being "slapped in the face" by Spain.

Said the former Chile and Sevilla coach: "They've really given us a slap in the face.

"I feel bad for the boys, I take the responsibility. In the second half, we didn't have balance or solidity and we were all at sea."

La Albiceleste won just 12.5 per cent of their World Cup qualifiers in Messi's absence, compared to 60 per cent when he featured.

But ex-England international Danny Murphy believes the two-time winners stand little chance in Russia, with or without Messi.

LITTLE CHANCE

Murphy told Sky Sports: "Messi is a big factor, but I don't think he could have stopped that tonight. They look all over the place, as they did in qualifying.

"I don't fancy Argentina with or without Messi."

In contrast, Spain look to be peaking ahead of football's showpiece event in June.

Costa, who has scored six times in his last six starts for Spain, declared that they are favourites for the World Cup.

He told Spanish radio station Cadena COPE: "With the players that we have, we cannot say that Spain are not favourites...

"The Argentinians criticise Messi a lot, but you can tell that when Messi is not there, they are something else.

"A player like Messi should not be criticised. You should thank God that he's there."

Spanish captain Sergio Ramos, however, tried to temper expectations. He said: "We have to be calm because we haven't won anything yet...

"We have to keep this ambition but without being arrogant. We have a World Cup coming and we do want to play a very important role."

Spain's hat-trick hero Isco, meanwhile, wants to play as important role for Real Madrid as he does for Spain.

He said: "I have the confidence of the (national) coach and maybe in Madrid, I have not won that yet. That's why the national team is so important for me as it gives me life."

Football