"That's how we're used to playing. That's how we played in most of the friendlies and qualifiers," Messi said.
Asked why he thought Sabella chose to start the game with a more cautious lineup, he said: "You have to ask Alejandro. He makes the decisions and decided that we should go out to play that way ... Maybe he was thinking he didn't want to let the three points slip away."
Attacking midfielder Angel Di Maria said he also preferred the three-man attack.
"Playing with three up front is much easier. For Leo too, because he always has two players to pass to. And when I join up he has a third," Di Maria said after the match Sunday.
Sabella admitted his initial game plan didn't work and that the half-time change allowed Messi to get more involved in the game.
Argentina plays Iran in its second match on Saturday.