Messi dependency claims irk Martino


Gerardo Martino has slammed suggestions that Argentina are dependent on Lionel Messi.

A knee injury ruled Barcelona superstar Messi out of Argentina's opening two World Cup 2018 qualifiers, where defeat at home to Ecuador was followed by a goalless draw with Paraguay.

The same issue means Messi is once again unavailable for the Thursday's clash with Brazil in Buenos Aires, as well as Tuesday's trip to face Colombia.

Argentina coach Martino is frustrated by claims that his side are too reliant on their captain, but admitted they are struggling in front of goal.

"When we lose, there is Messi dependency, and when we win, you do not talk about that," Martino said on Wednesday.

"The reality is that the team reached two finals in 10 months, but people can see it otherwise.

"The loss of Messi is important. The absence of players more accustomed to scoring also makes it more difficult to reach the goal.

"Against Paraguay we failed in our finishing, we had five or six clear chances to score."

Sergio Aguero was not fit enough to join his Argentina team-mates for the Brazil and Colombia games, while Pablo Zabaleta, Ezequiel Garay and Carlos Tevez have all withdrawn from the squad through injury.

And Martino's troubles have worsened as he admitted Javier Pastore is unlikely to feature against Brazil after suffering from conjunctivitis.

"Pastore is making the effort to be here. We will take it day by day," he added.

"The chances for tomorrow are small, for Tuesday we will see how he is."