The side were among the pre-tournament favourites, but struggled to get out of their group before falling to France in the Round of 16.
“The best player in the world was devoted” to the Argentina cause, Sampaoli told Marca.
The former Sevilla manager pointed out the difference between the environment Messi has at his club, which enables him to thrive, and the one the Argentina talisman faces within the national setup.
“At his club (Barcelona) he has great stability. But when he comes to the national team a collective hysteria takes over and it’s like we’re expected to win.
“This is not possible. If we don’t win, it’s he who cops all the criticism. So you can’t play, and you can’t enjoy it.”
“The weight of expectation on this team was too heavy. We all felt pushed by the obligation to win, which meant it was difficult for us to express our talents.
“It was difficult to work in those conditions because there was only one available option: to be world champions.
“Putting that kind of obligation ahead of the match itself made everything much more complicated.”
Sampaoli also had words of advice for his successor in the Argentina hot seat, Lionel Scaloni: “We need to find a balance so that this obligation to win doesn’t generate even more anxiety.
“Every match (at the World Cup) was a sufferance.”
Meanwhile, Messi’s international future remains unclear. He made himself unavailable after the World Cup, missing Argentina’s friendlies last month as well as the upcoming international break, though he has not officially retired.
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