BUENOS AIRES // Julio Grondona, the head of Argentina's Football Association (AFA), praised star striker Lionel Messi, but criticised his squadmates after their disappointing opening Copa America draw with Bolivia.
Messi has often been criticised in his homeland for failing to emulate his superb form for his club side Barcelona in the national side and the media even question his loyalty to a country which he left for Catalonia as a young teen.
"Messi always plays well, never badly — which is what the others around him were doing," Grondona told Radio Del Plata.
Sergio Batista, the coach, had sent out an attacking side to beat the Bolivians but Messi and his strike partner, the Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez, drew a blank and it was left to the substitute Sergio Aguero to rescue a point at La Plata.
For Grondona, Messi was forced to forage too deep.
"As the ball did not get through to Messi he had to drop back to pick it up," Grondona said.
But he also noted that it is "difficult to start off against a team which has nothing to lose."
Now Argentina have to chase down early Group A leaders Colombia, whom they meet Wednesday in Santa Fe before going up against special guests Costa Rica.