Scaloni’s resilience helps Argentina, Messi at World Cup


Argentinacontinues to dance, as his fans sing, against Tuesday’s World Cup semi-final match CroatiaAfter that either a shot at eternal glory in Sunday’s final, or a sad ending Lionel Messi era in Saturday’s third-place consolation game.

The only adversaries left out of the gateway to glory are those against whom, in a perverse way, this utterly improbable adventure became a possibility.

Argentina met Croatia in the second group-stage game of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Albiceleste Coached at the time by Jorge Sampaoli – highly rated, highly talented, highly volatile. It always looked like a bad fit. Argentina lacked players, and especially defenders, to execute Sampaoli’s trademark dynamic high-pressing play.

Croatia separated them. And in the closing stages of a 3–0 defeat, Sampaoli was found standing on the touchline abusing opposing players. It was a terrifying image, and a moment when Argentina’s football federation began to wonder whether it had made a mistake in giving him a long-term contract.

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Things got better later in the tournament, with Argentina’s experienced players taking on some of the responsibility. they beat Nigeria to make it to the knockouts and the eventual champion not to be humiliated in a round-of-16 defeat France, But – though it would cost them dearly – a change had to be made. Sampaoli was fired and Lionel Scaloni was named to replace him, initially with the undeniable merit of coming in cheaply on a caretaker basis.

Now, more than four years later, here we are. Scaloni has led Argentina to their first senior title since 1993 – when they won the Copa America last year – and now to the World Cup semi-finals.

It’s quite a promotion for someone with no previous senior coaching experience, who in 2018 was on staff in the relatively lowly position of supervisor of potential future opponents.

But experience sometimes counts for little, and it was Scaloni who celebrated Friday’s victory over a far more prestigious counterpart. Argentinian quarter final win above Netherlands And coach Louis van Gaal may have only come from a penalty shootout, but Scaloni’s men had the match under control, barring a Dutch rally at the end of normal time.

It ended up being a game in which the less experienced coach emerged with considerable credit. A coach has three main responsibilities: select the team, set the strategy and set the emotional tone in which the work takes place. Emotionally, Argentina responded very well after losing their lead in normal time in such dramatic fashion; They shrugged it off and were the better side in extra time.

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Albiceleste fans celebrate Lautaro Martinez’s decisive penalty kick against the Netherlands to send Argentina into the World Cup semi-finals.

Tactically too, Scaloni has had to go well – and has responded to the challenge offered by the potentially demoralizing shock first day’s defeat. Saudi Arab, Saudi coach Hervé Renard apparently studied the Argentine long and hard. He had observed that Scaloni’s team aimed to weave the ball into their patient midfield patterns, moving the opposing defense around until they could slip Messi close enough to the goal to cause problems. So his side forced Argentina to play a different type of game, pressing high, putting them under pressure and taking them into a game they didn’t want to play.

For its boldness, the Saudi victory must rank as one of the all-time great World Cup upsets, but it did not derail Argentina as Scaloni managed to marry two contradictory impulses. He believed enough in his original idea to stick to his guns, recognizing the need for change.

Scaloni immediately realized that Argentina’s then 36-game unbeaten run didn’t count for much. Things will be tough now; Customization will be required. They will not be able to set their own rhythm in all the games. Going forward, Messi would have to pick his moment – which was more likely to come as the game progressed and space opened up.

With Messi operating decisively but sporadically, there was a need for more mobility in the front line – and therefore the centre-forward Lautaro Martinez Gave way to Julian Alvarez, a striker with the soul of a midfielder. This allowed him to rattle off victory against Mexico, poland And Australia,

And then, especially against the Dutch, another change was needed. Since the final minutes of the friendly match with Estonia in June, the Argentine has been eyeing a three-centre-back formation. He closed some of his first World Cup games with this formation, but against the Netherlands he started in a similar fashion.

Ecuador had switched with success against the Dutch during their group-stage draw, and Argentina followed suit. In form of United States of america Netherlands’ fastest attacking weapon revealed in round-of-16 defeat denzel dumfries, moving in from right wing-back. Ecuador shut him down and Argentina too – and with the exception of a late fee at the end of normal time Orange never threatened. Scaloni’s hesitation paid off.

Croatia present a different challenge, and Scaloni will be considering how to win the midfield battle, especially against the venerable Croatia captain luka modric, But he will surely bring something more effective than what Sampaoli did four years ago.

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