The toxic atmosphere around Argentine football has been outlined by Javier Mascherano, who has spoken out against claims he struck teammate Ever Banega.

Coach Ricardo Caruso Lombardi has been controversial in the media with Mascherano complaining of being left alone after the claims were made.

"I was accused of hitting Banega after the Copa America final and no one denied it, and nothing happened," he told reporters in his pre-match press conference.
"Yesterday, a video comes out where someone from football accuses me of these atrocities. He is a nefarious person from Argentine football. We all know who he is [Caruso Lombardi]. These are the myths I speak of.

"Croatia's 3-0 victory over Argentina has left the South American giants in crisis, yet Mascherano confirmed that the relationship between the squad and coach, Jorge Sampaoli, remains totally normal.
There had been suggestions that the former Sevilla coach had been virtually stripped of his powers ahead of the final group match against Nigeria in which the Albiceleste need a miracle to progress.

"The relationship with Sampaoli is totally normal," he explained. "If we felt uncomfortable with him, we'd say so.

"We must look to work for the collective benefit, we are squad of 23 and the first people in charge are us, we're responsible for the results.
"Lionel Messi has been generally quiet at the tournament so far, coming in for sizable criticism, however his former club teammate remains convinced the playmaker will turn things around.

"He's fine," Mascherano intimated. "He's a key player, but he's a human being who has his own frustrations.

"Everyone is like that, but he really wants to reverse the idea people have of him.
"Whilst Sampaoli remains in charge, there was a crisis meeting between players and staff following the defeat to Croatia, although Mascherano feels this is normal procedure.

"At the meeting, we talked about football to help us and get us out of this mess," he confirmed.

"We have to be positive, even the best coaches ask for advice from their players.
"The coach is the one who gives us the tools to play, to be comfortable on the pitch you have to talk, meetings happens at every club, even Barcelona."

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