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World Cup chaos as Argentina players revolt against coach

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Argentina’s World Cup squad is in revolt after a failed coup attempt against coach Jorge Sampaoli, reported News.com.au (Australia).

Lionel Messi and Co are understood to have demanded the head of the former Chile boss in the wake of the humiliating defeat by Croatia.

The 2014 finalists were given a lifeline by Nigeria’s win over Iceland and would be odds on to reach the last 16 if they can beat the Africans in St Petersburg in Tuesday.

But that was the prompt for senior players to tell Argentine FA chiefs in crisis talks they had lost any trust in the coach.

The crunch meeting on Friday night saw the 23 squad members demand a meeting at the team hotel with Sampaoli, his coaching staff and Argentine FA President Claudio Tapia.

Javier Mascherano was said to have been the leader of the attempt to force out Sampaoli, with the midfielder demanding change at the helm as part of a “pact for life” before the Nigeria game.

The players wanted 1986 World Cup winning midfielder Jorge Barruchaga, currently the general manager of the national side, to replace Sampaoli.

One of Burrachaga’s 1986 team-mates, Ricardo Giusti, a close friend of the general manager, the mood was brutal.

Giusti said: “The players want to build the team.

“They told Sampaoli and Tapia that they are going to pick the side. Sampaoli can sit on the bench if he wants, but it won’t matter. It will be nothing to do with him.”

Sampaoli switched from a defensive quartet against Iceland to three at the back for the disastrous Croatia defeat, leaving his squad unconvinced the coach had any strategic planning.

It was also claimed that Mascherano and striker Cristian Pavon came to blows in the dressing room after the Croatia match when the former Liverpool midfielder lashed out verbally at blunder keeper Willy Caballero.

Despite the demands of the players, Sampaoli was given a stay of execution by Tapia after being summoned to the President’s room at Argentina’s base in Bronnitsy, 60 miles outside Moscow.

Sampaoli, though, was told that while he will stay on as coach for the rest of the World Cup, he WILL be sacked at the end of the tournament.

It was suggested that the FA wants Sampaoli to quit but that would mean him giving up claims for a pay-off.

Yet the uneasy peace is fragile and may not hold until Tuesday, with the certainly that an Argentine exit will bring further finger pointing and a renewed blame-game.

FIFA TO INVESTIGATE CELEBRATION
FIFA’s disciplinary committee has opened proceedings against Swiss players Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri for goal celebrations during their 2-1 win over Serbia in Kaliningrad.

FIFA also said it has opened disciplinary proceedings against the Serbian Football Association for crowd disturbance and the display of political and offensive messages by Serbian fans. FIFA also is reviewing statements that Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic made after the match.

Xhaka and Shaqiri celebrated their goals by making a nationalist symbol of their ethnic Albanian heritage.

Both players put their open hands together with their thumbs locked and fingers outstretched to make what looks like the double-headed eagle displayed on Albania’s flag. The thumbs represent the heads of the two eagles, while the fingers look like the feathers.

Shaqiri was born in Kosovo, the former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008.

Serbia doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence and relations between the two countries remain tense. Xhaka’s parents are originally from Kosovo and they are of Albanian heritage. His brother plays for Albania’s national team.

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Germany coach Joachim Loew said his team were rewarded for not losing their nerve at the most critical moment as a 95th-minute free-kick from Toni Kroos secured a 2-1 win over Sweden here Saturday that brought the World Cup holders back from the brink, reported Channal News Asia (Singapore).

The 10-man reigning champions were in deep trouble when Kroos stepped up to steer in his dramatic winner in the final minute of added time at Sochi's Fisht Stadium.

Before that, a Kroos error had led to Ola Toivonen giving Sweden a 32nd-minute lead and even a Marco Reus equaliser early in the second half appeared to be only a temporary stay of execution for Loew's men.

But the rescue act from Kroos is a huge lift to a side who saw Jerome Boateng sent off late on. They now have qualification for the last 16 back in their own hands ahead of their final Group F game against South Korea on Wednesday.

"We never lost hope. I think there was a bit of luck there with the goal scored in stoppage time, but it was a result of our belief in ourselves," said Loew.

"Despite the adversity, the team kept their cool and turned it around."

There is still no guarantee that they will avoid the fate of the last two World Cup holders, with Spain four years ago and Italy in 2010 both being knocked out in the group stage.

Not since 1938 have Germany been eliminated in the first round. However, this result will provide an almighty boost to them and is a hammer blow to Sweden, who will face Mexico in their last match with all still to play for.

Mexico's 2-1 win over South Korea earlier on Saturday had ensured Germany would be out in the event of a defeat, with a draw little better.

The late goal was especially sweet for Kroos, who was among the players to come in for stiff criticism in the wake of recent performances.

"We were criticised a lot, justifiably so in part, and a lot of people in Germany would have been pleased if we had gone out today," he said.

Loew made changes following the 1-0 loss at the hands of Mexico, with Reus among the players coming in. But Germany soon found themselves up against it.

SWEDEN DENIED PENALTY
Sweden should have had an early penalty when Marcus Berg was released on goal and, at the point of shooting, was fouled by Boateng.

Berg's effort was saved by Manuel Neuer. Boateng played the man and not the ball, but there was no penalty given and no recourse to the Video Assistant Referee by Polish official Szymon Marciniak.

"If we have the system it's very unfortunate that he doesn't feel he can go and have a look. If that's his decision we have to live with it," said Sweden coach Janne Andersson.

It was still a warning for the Germans, who were then dealt a body blow - literally - when Rudy was left with a bloodied nose after receiving a stray boot in the face.

Ilkay Gundogan replaced him, coming in alongside Kroos, who was at fault as Sweden went in front.

His pass was pounced upon by the Swedes, who sprung forward, Viktor Claesson picking out Toivonen to control on his chest and lift the ball over Neuer.

However, it took just three minutes of the second half for the equaliser to arrive.

Timo Werner's low ball from the left was behind Mario Gomez, who got a touch but not enough to put off Reus from bundling it in.

An onslaught followed, with Gomez twice coming close and fellow substitute Julian Brandt smacking a post late on. Boateng had already walked by then, seeing a second yellow in the 82nd minute for a foul on Berg.

Hope looked to be gone, but then Kroos exchanged passes with Reus at a free-kick on the left edge of the box and sent a sweet strike into the far corner, sparking wild celebrations.

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