Argentina will be very strong at World Cup – Sampaoli dismisses Maradona criticism

Diego Maradona has been critical of Jorge Sampaoli but the Argentina boss remains unperturbed looking ahead to Russia 2018.

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli remains optimistic about Argentina's chances at next year's FIFA World Cup.   -  Getty Images

Argentina head-coach Jorge Sampaoli is optimistic the 2014 runner-up can make an impact at next year's World Cup in Russia as he dismissed criticism from Diego Maradona.

Maradona played down Argentina's prospects after Sampaoli's men were drawn in Group D with Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria in Moscow on Friday, insisting the two-time world champion must improve having scraped through CONMEBOL qualifying.

Read: Sampaoli dreaming of Messi-Neymar World Cup final

Argentine great Maradona has been critical of Sampaoli since his appointment in June but the former Sevilla boss remains unperturbed.

"It does not bother me. We also feel this way," Sampaoli told Omnisport.

"I hope that as the time passes we will be able to have the chance to improve."

Sampaoli, with five-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi at his disposal, added: "I think we will grow, that we will have the chance to get rid of the load that we had in the qualifiers. Argentina will be very strong in the World Cup. I hope we can pass in our group, and show what sets us apart."

Argentina will open its World Cup campaign against tournament debutant Iceland in Moscow on June 16, before facing Croatia five days later and Nigeria on June 26.

"I already know where we will play, the days, the places, the trips, the rivals and their characteristics," Sampaoli continued.

"But that is what we are facing, and we have to know that Argentina has the best player in the world and has a chance to move to the second phase."

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