By Ramiro Scandalo
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina lost one of their group games in the 1978 World Cup but they picked themselves up to win the trophy for the first time and one of the men who was instrumental in that triumph says the 2018 side can do the same.
Daniel Bertoni, scorer of a goal in the final against the Netherlands in Buenos Aires, told Reuters teams can survive the kind of shaky start that Argentina have had here in Russia.
"Lots of teams who went on to be champions started poorly and then recovered and moved on," Bertoni said. "We lost to Italy and we got up straight away.
"I have faith in the character of the Argentine player, because he brings out the fight and passion, that's why they play in top leagues."
"So I have confidence and I hope we will be world champions," he added. "But we have to improve. We can't look the other way nor believe that we've gone from being the worst to the best."
Bertoni was one of the mainstays in Argentina's famous 1978 side that won the World Cup at home.
He came off the bench in their first two group games, scoring the winner in their opening 2-1 win over Hungary.
He started the third match, a 1-0 loss to Italy, but Argentina still qualified for the second round and Bertoni's spirited performances on the right wing ensured his place in the starting line-up.
Forty years on he remains a household name alongside greats like Mario Kempes, Daniel Passarella, Leopoldo Luque and Osvaldo Ardiles.
However, Bertoni warned that Argentina need to sort themselves out after a chaotic start that included a 1-1 draw to tiny Iceland, a 3-0 hammering by Croatia, and a heroic 2-1 win over Nigeria that secured their qualification in the dying moments.
"We still haven't gelled as a team, so far we've only got it together at the odd moment, such as in that first half hour (against Nigeria) with (Ever) Banega directing things in midfield and those individual moments of (Lionel) Messi," Bertoni said.
"We depend on Messi, we're hoping he can make a move that decides the game. We live off Messi.
"We were three or four minutes from being knocked out and luck was on our side. Now, we can change our mentality but football-wise it's more difficult to change.
"It is not possible to build a team in the middle of the competition, but I am very happy because Argentina qualified and now I hope we will reach the final."
(Writing by Andrew Downie in Sochi, Russia; Editing by Christian Radnedge)