Football: Argentina deny reports players want coach Jorge Sampaoli out before Nigeria game

Argentina's coach Jorge Sampaoli reacts during the World Cup Group D match between Argentina and Croatia at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on June 21, 2018.
Argentina's coach Jorge Sampaoli reacts during the World Cup Group D match between Argentina and Croatia at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on June 21, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

BRONNITSY, RUSSIA (AFP) - Argentina denied reports on Friday (June 22) that players want coach Jorge Sampaoli sacked before their final World Cup group game against Nigeria after a humbling 3-0 defeat by Croatia.

"It's absolutely false," read a statement from an Argentinian team official. "All that has been said about a players' meeting or anything else, it is all false," the source added.

Following Thursday's match, there were reports in both local and international media of a rift between Argentina players and the coaching staff, with striker Sergio Aguero clearly annoyed in a post-match interview.

It was also suggested that 1986 World Cup winner Jorge Burruchaga, the team's technical director, would take charge for Tuesday's must-win game against the Super Eagles.

"They want to sack Sampaoli, bring in Burruchaga and follow Spain's example," Ricardo Caruso Lombardi, who has coached several Argentinian clubs, said on Thursday.

Spain dismissed coach Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup after Real Madrid announced he would replace Zinedine Zidane at the Santiago Bernabeu following the tournament.

Argentina suffered their heaviest first round group-stage defeat at the World Cup since 1958 against Croatia, leaving them on the brink of elimination after an opening 1-1 draw with Iceland.