'The players have failed Argentina' - Former national team captain Javier Mascherano

The 27-year-old insists the players have to take the blame for the South American side's failings on the pitch, and backs Lionel Messi as his replacement as team captain
Argentina and Barcelona star Javier Mascherano has admitted that the South American side have underachieved in recent years, conceding that their lack of success is the fault of the players and not the string of coaches that have passed through the team.

The two time World Cup winners commence their campaign to qualify for the 2014 competition in Brazil in two weeks against Chile, which will be their first taste of competitive football since their disappointing exit in the Copa America quarter-finals back in July.

That defeat to Uruguay resulted in Sergio Batista losing his job, but former national team captain Mascherano was quick to take the blame.

"If the players aren't working, the coaches are not magicians. I have played in the national team for eight years and I have had six trainers. It is ridiculous," the 27-year-old stated in an interview with Clarin.

"We know that we are failing. We cannot keep saying every time that a new cycle is beginning or things like that. It sounds repetitive. It is time to talk less, put our heads down and work. The qualifiers start now and we have to concentrate."

Mascherano lost the captain's armband to Lionel Messi when Alejandro Sabella became the new Argentina boss in August of this year, but the midfielder was philosophical when asked if it hurt him to hand it over to his Barca team-mate.

"I enjoyed it greatly while I was captain, it was a great responsibility to have. But nothing in life lasts forever. We spoke to the coach, there was an idea to make Leo the captain and Sabella had every right to choose someone else," he explained.

"Leo is the best exponent of football that we have in the world and to me he is a perfect choice."

Argentina and Chile will meet in the Estadio Monumental on October 7, before Mascherano and company travel to Caracas to play Venezuela four days later.