We had a good assortment of mailbag questions to choose from today. Thanks for sending those in via Twitter. No Colin Kaepernick rant from me this week, but I did limit it to three (per the usual). Let’s get on with it.Kevin G: What happens more this season: rush attempts or throws to fade route?I actually laughed out loud at this one. Oklahoma State has 96 rushing attempts so far this year so I’d say it’s been about even so far. Seriously though, I think the lack of balanced creativity in the offense is one reason Mike Yurcich gets skewered so often. When you throw six fades in nine plays, well, it feels like you or I could do that for about half the money, right?I’m not saying he’s making bad calls — I don’t know the intricacies of coverage schemes or matchups well enough to know (and the truth is, most of you don’t either) — and it’s hard to criticize somebody who’s putting up 700 yards a game. I’m only saying that running the same play over and over makes it feel like the entire thing is being being held together with bubble gum and duct tape (especially when it’s just deep balls and fade routes).Of course then James Washington goes and does something like this, and we have to take it all back.Brett P: Would you take five to seven football wins as a cap every year to ensure the basketball team made the NCAA tournament every year?The real question here is “how many wins would you take as a cap to ensure the basketball team made the NCAA Tournament every year?” It’s not 5-7 for me. I’ve been there. It’s not fun. The Dance is awesome, but being great at football is better for a longer stretch of time. After thinking about it for a while, I don’t think I have a number.At first I thought it was 10 wins because OSU is going to so rarely exceed 10 wins in a given season. But those seasons in which it does are so rife with great memories and incredibly fun games that I’m just not sure I can give that up. I’m writing all this under the presumption that even though my basketball team is not assured of making it to the NCAA Tournament in any given year, it always feasibly could make it.AS LONG AS BRAD UNDERWOOD KEEPS CROOTIN EVERY. DAY. GUYS.You don’t have to be perfect, but you need to bring 100% effort each day. “I want EVERY-DAY GUYS!” @OSUCoachBrad. pic.twitter.com/0KyH43at51— Cowboy Basketball (@OSUMBB) September 9, 2016 Tyler B: If Dallas drafts Mason and we get Mason2Dez will you explode?I would never leave Dallas. Fine, one more because that wasn’t really a question as much as it was an ingenious idea.Matt M: Are the players on the o-line not very good or is it a scheme issue? Can’t believe lower quality schools have better lineman.A terrific question. Let’s go to the recruiting rankings!Total recruiting stars for OSU’s five starting five linemen on Saturday: 14Total recruiting stars for OSU’s five starting linemen for 2011 Big 12 title game: 13Regarding that 2011 team, Levy Adcock wasn’t even given any stars by 247 which is where I got all the other rankings. I gave him two because I know some other sites ranked him (and some didn’t). Two seemed fair. Here’s an excerpt from the Oklahoman from 2011:“When I first got here, I needed to learn to play,” Adcock told the Oklahoman. “Because I wasn’t doing anything right.” But Adcock got to learn from former OSU tackle and current Seattle Seahawk Russell Okung, who, Adcock said, “knew everything,” during his first season. Becoming a pupil of OSU offensive line coach extraordinaire Joe Wickline was also a huge benefit.Anyway, are those small and unfair sample sizes? Maybe. But the point is that it wasn’t like Oklahoma State was throwing out 20 stars worth of offensive linemen back in 2011 when it ran for 5.4 yards a pop. Was that starting five better? Probably so. But the difference wasn’t that significant. Not to the degree that should make us say the things we say under our breath during OSU games these days. While you’re here, we’d like you to consider subscribing to Pistols Firing and becoming a PFB+ member. It’s a big ask from us to you, but it also comes with a load of benefits like ad-free browsing (ads stink!), access to our premium room in The Chamber and monthly giveaways.The other thing it does is help stabilize our business into the future. As it turns out, sending folks on the road to cover games and provide 24/7 Pokes coverage like the excellent article you just read costs money. Because of our subscribers, we’ve been able to improve our work and provide the best OSU news and community anywhere online. Help us keep that up.
While you’re here, we’d like you to consider subscribing to Pistols Firing and becoming a PFB+ member. It’s a big ask from us to you, but it also comes with a load of benefits like ad-free browsing (ads stink!), access to our premium room in The Chamber and monthly giveaways.The other thing it does is help stabilize our business into the future. As it turns out, sending folks on the road to cover games and provide 24/7 Pokes coverage like the excellent article you just read costs money. Because of our subscribers, we’ve been able to improve our work and provide the best OSU news and community anywhere online. Help us keep that up. Tyreek Hill and the Kansas City Chiefs were practically run off the field on Sunday evening against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But the Chiefs kept fighting, despite the lop-sided nature of the contest, and it was with the help of Tyreek Hill the Chiefs finally got on the board late in the fourth quarter.Bobbled… juggled… CAUGHT.TD!The @Chiefs are on the board! #KCvsPIT https://t.co/cHiCIyEGpv— NFL (@NFL) October 3, 2016Hill returned a punt for a touchdown earlier in the football game, but the play was called back for a block in the back. He has had two returns for touchdowns this season, both of which were called back for holding.
While you’re here, we’d like you to consider subscribing to Pistols Firing and becoming a PFB+ member. It’s a big ask from us to you, but it also comes with a load of benefits like ad-free browsing (ads stink!), access to our premium room in The Chamber and monthly giveaways.The other thing it does is help stabilize our business into the future. As it turns out, sending folks on the road to cover games and provide 24/7 Pokes coverage like the excellent article you just read costs money. Because of our subscribers, we’ve been able to improve our work and provide the best OSU news and community anywhere online. Help us keep that up. Oklahoma State assistants have always been paid a lot compared to the rest of the league — this has been a pillar of the Mike Gundy era — but this year’s numbers especially stand out. The only two schools that pay their assistants above $3 million a year reside in the state of Oklahoma.Here are the Big 12’s public universities, according to the Des Moines Register — remember, Baylor and TCU are private schools who are not required to release this financial information.Oklahoma: $4,337,000Oklahoma State: $3,308,347Kansas State: $2,985,000West Virginia: $2,935,000Iowa State: $2,319,000Texas: $2,313,828Kansas: $2,299,000Texas Tech: $2,225,000Even more stunning is what OSU’s coordinators make compared to the rest of the league’s. Mike Yurcich is one of just three offensive coordinators north of the $500,000 a year mark. Of course he’s about half of what the Texas and OU OCs mark.Sterlin Gilbert, Texas: $991,667Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma: $900,000Mike Yurich, Oklahoma State: $500,000Dana Dimel, Kansas State: $430,000Joe Wickline, West Virginia: $425,000Tom Manning, Iowa State: $350,000Rob Likens, Kansas: $350,000Eric Morris, Texas Tech: $260,000Glenn Spencer is the third-highest paid defensive coordinator as well.Mike Stoops, Oklahoma: $900,000Tony Gibson, West Virginia: $750,000Glenn Spencer, Oklahoma State: $600,000David Gibbs, Texas Tech: $550,000Jon Heacock, Iowa State: $454,000Tom Hayes, Kansas State: $430,000Clint Bowen, Kansas: $400,000Vance Bedford, Texas: $316,667I thought it would be fun to combine coordinator salaries with my efficiency charts from yesterday. We looked at how many points teams score per drive and how many the give up. This provides a good snapshot of where you are as an offense and defense in your own conference.For the offensive coordinators, I simply matched up their salaries with their points per drive. I divided the PPD by the salary and used a multiplier of 1M to give us a real number. As you can see, Texas Tech is, um, getting a lot of value. It is No. 1 in the nation in points per drive and paying its offensive coordinator less than anyone in the Big 12. This is sort of a false number because Kliff Kingsbury is intimately involved there, but it’s still shocking compared to the rest of the league.The numbers below don’t really measure anything other than the fake value I wanted them to measure. Oklahoma State is doing pretty well in this category. OU and Texas both pay their coordinators a lot more money (nearly double) to get slightly more production. There is probably a way to normalize the fact that, you know, because you are OU and Texas you are expected to pay more money and there is a ceiling on how many point you can score per drive, but we don’t have time. This is a quick and dirty snapshot.On the defensive side, I multiplied points per drive given up with DC salaries and divided by 100,000 to give us a manageable number. Lower is better in this case. Poor Mike Stoops. Actually, not poor Mike Stoops. He’s making $900K a year, and his defense stinks. Kansas State has the best defense in the league so far and is paying its coordinator the third-lowest salary in the Big 12. Glenn Spencer is right about average. Also, that Texas number is a little iffy since, you know, its defensive coordinator now makes like $5M a year ….Again, this is not meant to be anything but a quick snapshot of how much value each coordinator in the Big 12 is providing. I am not a statistician, and I know there are far better ways to look at this, but I think it provides a decent picture. And it passes the eye test for me. Glenn Spencer seems like he is providing about average value, and Mike Yurcich seems like he providing slightly above average value. It’s unfortunate that TCU and Baylor don’t release their numbers because it would be interesting to see where they fit in.
The game flipped in the third quarter when OSU scored on Washington’s first TD, got a fumble and scored another TD to start the fourth quarter to make it 31-28 after it looked like all was lost halfway through the second half. From there, OSU’s defense forced two punts, had a pick and forced another turnover on downs.It took a full 45 minutes, but Glenn Spencer and Co. finally showed up when OSU most needed them. The end of the game, seemingly like the end of all OSU games lately, was a borderline disaster. OSU got the ball back with just under two minutes left and instead of rushing it a few times and kicking a field goal, took a knee and gave ISU the ball back with 0:20 on the clock (what on earth could go wrong?!)Thankfully, this one ended better than the Central Michigan game, and OSU moved to 4-2 on the year. OSU also moved to 31-2 in the Mike Gundy Era when forcing three or more turnovers and turning it over one or fewer times (they turned it over zero times on Saturday).On to the bye week. We will be back with tons more coverage later tonight. While you’re here, we’d like you to consider subscribing to Pistols Firing and becoming a PFB+ member. It’s a big ask from us to you, but it also comes with a load of benefits like ad-free browsing (ads stink!), access to our premium room in The Chamber and monthly giveaways.The other thing it does is help stabilize our business into the future. As it turns out, sending folks on the road to cover games and provide 24/7 Pokes coverage like the excellent article you just read costs money. Because of our subscribers, we’ve been able to improve our work and provide the best OSU news and community anywhere online. Help us keep that up. Oklahoma State somehow held off Iowa State 38-31 at the end of an insane game in Stillwater on Saturday to keep Mike Gundy’s home record against the Cyclones clean. In fact, Oklahoma State hasn’t lost at home to ISU since the last year of the Bill Clinton administration (2000).It got ugly before it got pretty on Saturday though. OSU trailed 31-14 with three minutes left in the third quarter when it got the ball back on a punt and reeled off 24 unanswered points to close out the game.Mason Rudolph was 26/44 for 351 yards and four TDs but didn’t play nearly that well. He missed short and intermediate throws early and often but threw some dimes to Jalen McCleskey and The President James Washington late when it mattered. I’m still all in on No. 2 (and always have been) but some of his throws on easier routes have been mysterious the last few weeks.What is not mysterious is whether James Washington is good at football. No. 28 had eight catches for 152 yards and two TDs after we were uncertain whether he was even going to play. He also caught what turned out to be the game-winner.
While you’re here, we’d like you to consider subscribing to Pistols Firing and becoming a PFB+ member. It’s a big ask from us to you, but it also comes with a load of benefits like ad-free browsing (ads stink!), access to our premium room in The Chamber and monthly giveaways.The other thing it does is help stabilize our business into the future. As it turns out, sending folks on the road to cover games and provide 24/7 Pokes coverage like the excellent article you just read costs money. Because of our subscribers, we’ve been able to improve our work and provide the best OSU news and community anywhere online. Help us keep that up. In three of the last four years, Bedlam has had Big 12 title implications. The year that it didn’t, Oklahoma State won. We’ve had a frigid heartbreaker with some controversial calls, a daring comeback, a night when Oklahoma State was doomed from the start without No. 2 and a soggy afternoon that left a bad taste in most Cowboy fans’ mouths.Here are is the ugly truth. Mike Gundy is 2-10 against Oklahoma. He was 2-10 against Bob Stoops. Are those two statements commensurable or does the 13th-year CEO take advantage and finally remove that crimson monkey from his back? His fresh-faced counterpart has more pressing things to worry about at the moment like learning to captain his own ship while calling plays and replacing the brunt of this offensive firepower from a year ago.The most important question is whether Mike Gundy has an Oklahoma problem or whether he had a Bob Stoops problem? The good news it that he may have his best team since the first time got a check in the Bedlam win column.ParticularsWhen: Saturday, November 4, 2017 at TBDWhere: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OklahomaTV: TBDLast Meeting: Forgettable.In a rain-soaked affair, we saw strange play calling, fumbles and maybe the worst game of Mason Rudolph’s career — hopefully. After the game we heard everything from excuses about the weather to the way the ball came out of QB1’s hand to people ridiculously calling for Gundy’s job.The facts are that Oklahoma State couldn’t keep up and sometimes didn’t look like it was trying all that hard. Mason Rudolph completed just 44 percent of his passes and went scoreless with two fumbles (both recovered by OSU). He completed just three more pass attempts (11) than he had rushes (8). That’s not a recipe for success with this offense.OffenseThe Sooners may have the best offensive line in college football and they may return the best quarterback in the nation. Baker Mayfield’s 196.4 passer rating in 2016 broke Russell Wilson’s record for the highest ever. He may have thrown Dede Westbrook into a Biletnikoff winner. On the other hand, his passer rating was no doubt facilitated by that group of dynamic playmakers in Westbrook, Joe Mixon and Semaje Perine.Regardless, he’s the contentious, annoying, hate-him-if-he’s-your-rival, love-him-if-he’s your-own engine that drives the OU offense and the entire team. He’s the No. 1 reason that a team replacing a Hall of Fame coach and three NFL dudes was picked No. 7 in the preseason AP poll.Who steps up at wide receiver? Can a backfield tandem of Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson can come close to sniffing the production of Mixon and Perine from a year ago? If so, look out.DefenseMike Stoops is hanging on for the ride with first-year head coach Lincoln Riley’s mentor and defensive mind Ruffin McNeil looming. But Stoops has some talent returning like linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and a deeper, more experienced secondary headlined by Jordan Thomas.Ironically, while Oklahoma State is transitioning to a three-down front — which it debuted towards the end of last season — OU is transitioning from Mike Stoops’ rigid three-down system to using more four-down looks. A front seven that is dealing with some turnover will need to adjust accordingly and quickly as the Sooners travel to Columbus for what could be a top-five Week 2 matchup against Ohio State.Key MatchupOklahoma State has a deep and talented group of defensive ends but do they have anyone that can break out as a star this year? In order to help their young secondary, OSU’s edge rushers are going to have to put some pressure on Mayfield. That’s not exactly easy to do. The Heisman finalist was only sacked 18 times last season. You can’t allow him to sit back and make stars out of his (to this point) unproven receivers.ConclusionIt’s going to be a tough game, hopefully without the weather complications. Can we get a dome on BPS? But I predict a close game late but the home team pulls out some Cowboy magic.Summer PredictionThe good guys keep hope alive with a 38-35 win in OT.
World Cup It’s time for Australia to start Daniel Arzani and play Tim Cahill against Denmark, says Mark Bosnich Kieran Francis @kieran_francis Last updated 1 year ago 22:20 6/20/18 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(0) World Cup Australia Denmark v Australia Denmark The former Socceroo begged the coach to unleash Australia’s youngest and oldest player against Denmark Football commentator Mark Bosnich believes the Socceroos should unleash Daniel Arzani and Tim Cahill during their second World Cup match against Denmark in Samara on Wednesday.The green and gold need a result to keep their hopes of progressing to the knockout stages alive after a 2-1 loss to France in their opening group C game.Bosnich is adamant Cahill will play a part against the Danes, just not from the start because of his lack of time over the past six months. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Out of his depth! Emery on borrowed time after another abysmal Arsenal display Diving, tactical fouls & the emerging war of words between Guardiola & Klopp Sorry, Cristiano! Pjanic is Juventus’ most important player right now Arsenal would be selling their soul with Mourinho move “I’d say to him (Cahill), ‘I’m not going to start with you but you are going play a major part tonight,” Bosnich told SEN.”In my opinion, if you start him, he’s in great condition for his age but he’s only played 65 minutes in the last 10 games or so in the Championship (with Millwall).”To play a full game, he’s not in that condition.”Whether you start him and play him (for) the first bit or you bring him on with half an hour to go, I think he needs to play some type of part.” I think basically he will play some part in this game.”Arzani received only his third international cap against Les Bleus with the 19-year-old scoring his first international goal in the pre-World Cup friendly against Hungary.With the Socceroos in need of a positive result, Bosnich believes Arzani is the man to offer something different in attack.”I would start with Daniel Arzani,” he said.”The other day, Robbie Kruse put in a good shift defensively but from an attacking point of view offered us nothing.”Daniel Arzani is a player who offers something completely different that we haven’t got.”He’s a player that we aspire to produce all the time and somebody that we are going to enjoy watching for a very long time.”France and Denmark lead group C with one win from their first game, while the Socceroos and Peru are yet to get a point.Australia need to win at least of their remaining two games against the Danes and Peruvian to have any chance of playing in the round-of-16.
World Cup Aaron Mooy vs Christian Eriksen: The battle to decide Australia’s World Cup clash with Denmark Lewis Oldham 09:57 6/21/18 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(1) World Cup Denmark v Australia Australia Denmark Tottenham Hotspur Huddersfield Town The Premier League playmakers get set to meet in Samara and their delivery from set-pieces could prove to be decisive Denmark face Australia in their second World Cup Group C game on Thursday, with the match’s decisive battle likely to be between Christian Eriksen and Aaron Mooy.The Danes opened their World Cup account with a 1-0 win over Peru, with the winning goal orchestrated by Eriksen, who set up Yussuf Poulsen to score following a counter-attack.Australia, meanwhile, battled hard against France and were unlucky to lose 2-1 with the winner coming in the 80th minute via a deflected goal. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Out of his depth! Emery on borrowed time after another abysmal Arsenal display Diving, tactical fouls & the emerging war of words between Guardiola & Klopp Sorry, Cristiano! Pjanic is Juventus’ most important player right now Arsenal would be selling their soul with Mourinho move Mooy was the Socceroos’ main man in the middle of the park and he was at the heart of all their best moments going forward through his deliveries into the danger area.Ahead of the two Premier League performers meeting in Samara, Mooy acknowledged the threat Eriksen will pose to Australia’s chances in what is a must-win game for Bert van Marwijk’s side.”He’s an excellent player, he’s had a great season and is probably their most dangerous player,” Mooy said.“We need to stop the supply going to him, but we need to do that as a team.”Both schemers headed to Russia on the back of a domestic season in which they were looked upon as the chief creator for their respective clubs. Eriksen created 95 opportunities for his Tottenham team-mates, while Mooy created 50 chances for Huddersfield.Dead-ball situations could provide a fruitful source of chances in Samara, with Eriksen and Mooy boasting impressive figures from the 2017-18 Premier League season.Eriksen’s crossing and corner accuracy stood at 23.21 per cent, while Mooy’s was 20.43 per cent. In their respective opening World Cup games, they both took charge of free-kicks and corners, and they are capable of putting defences under pressure with their delivery.It is not just set-pieces where opposing teams have to watch out for their delivery, but crosses from open play too, with Mooy’s 14.1% accuracy putting him ahead of Eriksen in this department, with the Dane on 11.9%.Accurate, dangerous deliveries into the box could be particularly crucial for Australia, if 38-year-old Tim Cahill is given the nod to play some part in the game. PL Stats (17/18) Aaron Mooy Christian Eriksen Games Played 36 37 Goals 4 10 Assists 3 10 Chances Created 50 95 Passing Accuracy 79.55% 82.37% Crosses/Corner Accuracy 20.43% 23.21% Crossing from open play accuracy 14.1% 11.9% Shot Conversion Rate 28.57% 16.67% Touches in opponents’ box 29 97 Former Socceroo Stan Lazaridis wants to see Cahill start against Denmark and outlined the best way to bring the best out of the ex-Everton star.”He knows where to be,” Lazaridis told Goal .“He’s not going to get the ball from the halfway line and take players on, he’s relying on crosses and I think Denmark are the right team to play against so, if you get him service in that 18-yard box, I still think he’s good enough to score a goal.”While there is a significant gulf between Eriksen and Mooy’s respective clubs in the Premier League, the gap in quality is much narrower between Denmark and Australia.Both will be expected to spearhead their national teams’ push for a last 16 spot at the World Cup in what is likely to be an intensely-fought encounter.There is very little to separate the pair when it comes to crossing and set-piece accuracy, so making the most of these fine margins could determine whether Denmark or Australia will head into matchday three with the best chance of reaching the World Cup knockout stages.
World Cup Cristiano Ronaldo sets sights on Group B summit after Morocco win Goal 23:44 6/20/18 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(0) Getty Images World Cup Portugal Portugal v Morocco Morocco The Real Madrid star now has four goals from two World Cup starts after he hit again to move his nation closer to a spot in the last 16 Cristiano Ronaldo believes Portugal have what it takes to secure first place in Group B after another fine World Cup performance to down Morocco. The Real Madrid star announced himself in style in Russia with a fantastic hat-trick as Portugal kicked off the competition with a 3-3 draw against Spain. And he needed just four minutes of Wednesday’s clash to open the scoring, although the Selecao failed to add to the tally in a game that eventually finished 1-0. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Out of his depth! Emery on borrowed time after another abysmal Arsenal display Diving, tactical fouls & the emerging war of words between Guardiola & Klopp Sorry, Cristiano! Pjanic is Juventus’ most important player right now Arsenal would be selling their soul with Mourinho move That win puts them at the top of their group ahead of Spain’s clash with Iran, and Ronaldo sees no reason why they cannot make the position their own. “We knew that we were going to play against a team that would give everything,” he explained to reporters after the final whistle. “They came in very strongly and surprised us with a lot of intensity. We defended pretty well. I managed to score and help Portugal take three points. “I am happy, it was a nice moment. Our expectations are growing as our work continues, we are one step away from getting out of the group stage. “Then we will see. We will take it game by game and try to go through as first in the group, if possible.” Portugal close out their Group B campaign on Monday against Iran, while Spain will take on eliminated Morocco. The first-placed team will meet Group A’s runners-up, with the side in second drawn against the Group A winner in the last 16. Russia are currently top, while second-placed Uruguay are expected to defeat Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to set up a battle for top spot next Monday against the host nation.
Transfers Still some things to sort in Jorginho to Man City deal – Alberto Galassi Tommy Doleman 14:36 6/21/18 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(0) Getty Images Transfers Manchester City Napoli The Premier League side’s board member says made it clear that talks were advanced, but says that the negotiations have not been simple Manchester City are hopeful Italian international Jorginho will become their first summer signing, but board member Alberto Galassi says there’s still work to be done, before a deal is completed.Goal reported on Wednesday that the 26-year-old is expected to join City from Napoli in the coming days for a €50 million ($66m) fee. Jorginho and his agent are poised to finalise the move after a payment structure between City and Napoli was agreed earlier this week. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Out of his depth! Emery on borrowed time after another abysmal Arsenal display Diving, tactical fouls & the emerging war of words between Guardiola & Klopp Sorry, Cristiano! Pjanic is Juventus’ most important player right now Arsenal would be selling their soul with Mourinho move As revealed in May, City had already seen a bid of around £39m ($52m) rejected for Jorginho.After weeks of further haggling, a fee of around £46m (€52m/$60.4m) plus bonuses worth around £6m (€6.8m/$7.9m) was provisionally agreed on Monday.City had agreed personal terms with Jorginho many weeks ago, having identified him as their priority midfield targetPep Guardiola has identified the midfielder as a replacement for Yaya Toure, but Galassi told Sky Sports Italia that negotiations are still on-going between the Premier League champions and Serie A runner-up.“The club is interested, the player is also interested and Napoli is not opposed to the move,” he said.“Having said that, there are still some things to sort out and it’s not done yet. It’s not an easy negotiation.”Jorginho has made more than 130 appearances for Napoli since joining the club from Verona in 2014 and has earned eight caps for Italy.
World Cup ‘Best in the world’ Messi the victim of unfair treatment, says Sampaoli Christopher Devine 01:27 6/21/18 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(1) Getty Images World Cup Argentina Argentina v Croatia Croatia Lionel Messi The captain failed to convert from the penalty spot during Argentina’s World Cup opener, but he enjoys the complete confidence of his coach Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli again lauded Lionel Messi as the best player in the world on Wednesday and suggested the forward has faced “unfair” criticism following his costly failure to convert a penalty in their World Cup opener against Iceland.Messi saw a second-half spot-kick saved by Hannes Thor Halldorsson as Argentina were held to a surprise 1-1 draw in their opening Group D fixture.As a result, the Albiceleste are now under additional pressure ahead of Thursday’s clash with Croatia, who began their campaign with a routine 2-0 win over Nigeria. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Out of his depth! Emery on borrowed time after another abysmal Arsenal display Diving, tactical fouls & the emerging war of words between Guardiola & Klopp Sorry, Cristiano! Pjanic is Juventus’ most important player right now Arsenal would be selling their soul with Mourinho move Sampaoli is confident his team are over their initial troubles, though, and insists Messi cannot be held solely responsible for Argentina’s fortunes in Russia.”We were quite upset about not having won. I think we’ve recovered, though,” Sampaoli said in a news conference in Nizhny Novgorod, the venue for the match against Croatia.”Leo shouldn’t shoulder all the responsibility. We’re talking about a World Cup that involves millions of people. We can all miss a penalty. We have an entire squad here and we need to bind ourselves together through good and bad.”Sometimes, football gives you these unpleasant surprises.”Discussing the criticism Messi has faced in recent days, Sampaoli added: “It’s what I always say: when you score in the Argentina shirt, we all take credit, but when Argentina lose, it’s all Leo’s fault. I think that’s quite unfair treatment.”It’s a lot of pressure for a single player to bear so I have to say I also feel responsible for missing that penalty and I’ll celebrate Leo’s goals like any other Argentine.”He is the best player in the world and clearly it is impossible that a single player changes the situation of a match completely. He can’t be held responsible for a defeat.”[SELECCIÓN MAYOR] La Delegación @Argentina ya está en Nizhni Novgorod. Aquí algunas postales del arribo pic.twitter.com/6lJs3Bd4nP— Selección Argentina (@Argentina) June 20, 2018Many have suggested Messi needs to guide his country to World Cup glory in order to be held in the same esteem as Argentina icon Diego Maradona.Asked for his opinion on the matter, Sampaoli said: “People like to compare things to define differences that have to do with different generations.”With Argentina, Leo has only lost five or six matches of the 75 or so he has played so Leo is a pillar of the team, just as Diego was in his day.”Every Argentinian is free to have the opinion they want.”