Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said Lionel Messi’s Golden Ball award as the player of the World Cup was richly deserved despite the south Americans’ defeat by Germany in the final.
Messi missed a glorious chance for Argentina in the showpiece at the Maracana but Sabella said the Barcelona forward is already among the true greats of the game.
“He deserves it because he played an extraordinary World Cup,” said Sabella. “He was a fundamental factor in the team making it to the final, along with everything done by his other team-mates.
“The World Cup is a highly demanding tournament and as for his reputation, he is in that pantheon among the greats. But he was there before - he has been there for quite some time.”
Sabella admitted that his side had paid the price for missing chances - as well as Messi, Gonzalo Higuain passed up a glorious opportunity, while Germany triumphed in extra-time via Mario Gotze’s volley.
Sabella added: “The players are bitter and sad because we had a huge dream having made it all the way to the final. We needed to be more clinical and I am sad just like the players.
“Beyond the pain of the defeat in the final they can look themselves in the eyes and say they gave everything for Argentina.
“We have an extraordinary group of players, these were warriors. I congratulated the players because they left every drop of sweat out on the field. They gave their all.
“I am very proud, the boys played an extraordinary World Cup and improved as they advantages through the stages and they gave everything for the Argentina jersey.
“I think that this was a very tough match, Germany started better and handled the ball well and is a great team.
“The match had its up and downs but we had the clearer chances. I congratulate my players for their extraordinary work and congratulations to Germany on the title.”
Sabella also refused to be drawn on his future.
He said: “I cannot speak about the future, the future for me now is to be with the players and my people - the coaches and my family - and to rest a bit. I don’t know what to say about the future.”