Sampaoli not revealing Argentina XI to face Croatia

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Ryan Pierse
It remains to be seen who the experienced manager will pick for their second group match, with plenty of options on the table for the Albiceleste

Jorge Sampaoli revealed his starting line-up early ahead of Argentina's opening World Cup game , but the coach insists he has not yet decided on the XI to face Croatia on Thursday.

Sampaoli surprisingly announced his team to face Iceland at a news conference 24 hours before that fixture, before claiming the move was not a sign of disrespect towards the Group D debutants.

Iceland duly held Argentina to a 1-1 draw, increasing the pressure on Lionel Messi and his side ahead of their second pool fixture.

In a news conference ahead of the meeting with Croatia, Sampaoli said: "I can't give you the line-up because we haven't decided it yet."

Argentina's experienced coach went on to discuss the main selection issues he is considering.

"The opposition have a huge variety of options, especially in attack, so we have to start with a certain plan but then remain flexible," Sampaoli added.

"The changes I make might reflect a change in system which might give us an added level of flexibility. What is most important for us is to be solid at the back so we can develop our attacks smoothly. We're also looking to be more efficient in the penalty box."

Having defended star man Lionel Messi over his failure to convert a penalty against Iceland , Sampaoli indicated the Barcelona forward was understandably central to his planning for the Croatia match.

"The idea is to find space in which Messi doesn't find himself surrounded. That's one of the main ideas we have as a team," he explained.

"If two or three players latch onto Messi, there will be other players who will be free. This will create spaces and opportunities, so we want to have players who can take advantage, as was the case with Iceland when there were a lot of players surrounding him.

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"We hope we've hit the nail on the head in the last few days so Leo can use the quality he has and if he can't express himself hopefully the other players can."

Argentina, who sit joint-second in Group D will close their group stage against Nigeria after facing off with Croatia. 

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