"Look, I love Messi, we all do".
Messi missed a penalty in Argentina's 1-1 draw against Iceland in the opening group match.
Argentina, hurt by the poor play of goalkeeper Willy Caballero on Thursday, had not lost by such a large margin in the first round since a 6-1 defeat to Czechoslovakia in 1958.
Higuain missed sitters in the 2014 World Cup final and a year later in the Copa America final against Chile.
While the coach's words were slightly twisted, Aguero's dismissiveness does not bode well for team unity ahead of a must-win match against Nigeria on Tuesday.
Though Sampaoli blamed himself, a TyC Sports presenter told Aguero that his manager had said his players failed to adapt to his tactics, thereby shifting the blame onto them. "I had a lot of hope". The responsibility for the defeat will be put on Messi.
That's the best case scenario for Argentina, but it's still a rough road to travel.
Croatia frustrated Argentina throughout the match and never gave Messi space to operate. And if such opportunities should arise, Sampaoli said it's imperative for Argentina to find the back of the net. Argentina probably shouldn't have been one of the favourites but with their history and one of the world's best players everyone automatically expects more of them than they should.
Croatia clinches a place in the Round of 16 with the victory, but Argentina must beat Nigeria by a large margin in its next game to survive the so-called "Group of Death". "Of course this win will boost our confidence, but let's keep our feet firmly on the ground".
"But we're not trying to focus on that". He's the country's top-scorer ever, with 64 goals in 124 games, and was the main reason they reached three finals in the last four years. "It looks easy, but it was not that easy".
And former Federation Internationale de Football Association president Sepp Blatter said he believes the World Cup should return to England when Europe next gets its turn to host the tournament. The point against Iceland does mean that no matter the result between Iceland and Nigeria they aren't out.
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. An even rougher one would be if Iceland wins, which would throw out the above scenario and trigger the last case scenario for Messi's squad.
"The first part of the game we were not convinced we could play against them, then they saw the solution and from then on we controlled the game and Denmark were afraid of us".