One win puts Scaloni in the list of greats coaches in Argentina
Lionel Scaloni finds himself just one win away from joining the club of greats Argentina coaches, along with former World Cup winners Cesar Luis Menotti and Carlos Bilardo, when he faces defending champions France Sunday in the Qatar 2022 World Cup final.
Scaloni (44 years old) arrived at the start to receive The duties temporarily in 2018 to succeed Jorge Sampaoli, and here he is leading Argentina to the sixth final in its history with ambitions for a third title and the first since 1986.
The contrast between the irritable Sampaoli and the calm Scaloni, who was part of the coaching staff at Russia 2018, could not be more clear.
His appointment after Albiceleste's 4-3 exit in the last eight against France in particular was met with widespread criticism and rejection from those who felt he lacked the necessary qualifications.
Among the critics was the late legend Diego Maradona, who also coached Argentina between 2008 and 2010.
Despite praising Scaloni's character, he told Clarin newspaper that "he's not even capable of being a traffic cop and managing traffic".
Scaloni had no previous experience as a head coach and was only supposed to take charge for two months while the federation searched for Sampaoli's successor.
He inherited a team that suffered a series of disappointments: losing the 2014 World Cup final against Germany and the Copa America final against Chile by penalty kicks in 2015 and 2016, which led to Lionel Messi announcing his international retirement before returning from his decision two months later.
The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner was impressed by Scaloni's vision for the team, in addition to the presence of his idol Pablo Aimar in the coaching staff, along with his former international colleagues Roberto Ayala and Walter Samuel.
- An "identity" for the team - The Argentine coach sews the team's shape as he wants, as 19 out of 26 players in Qatar are playing the World Cup finals for the first time in their career.
"He helped discover players like (Nahuel) Molina, Cristian Romero, Lisandro Martinez and (Alexis) McAllister, who gave The team is an identity and, above all, it gave Leo (Messi) options to play that were not available to him in the last World Cup.
Argentina will be facing France in their sixth World Cup final, but Scaloni was quick to downplay comparisons to his country's best coaches of the past, including Menotti, Bilardo and Alejandro Sabella who led them to the 2014 final when they lost 1-0 to Germany in extension.
"I can't compare myself to other coaches," he said. "It's an honor for me to reach the final and represent the national team. But I can't put myself on the same level as them. I feel proud to be in the final."
To many, Scaloni combines Menotti's tactical acumen with Bilardo's realism.
"Scaloni is not alone (...) he is surrounded by very serious people, very eager to learn, they work, they study, they read, they look for forms of development in Preparing a national team," referring to Aimar, Samuel and Ayala.
Scaloni led Argentina to a run of 36 matches without defeat before the World Cup, punctuated by winning the 2021 Copa America in Brazil against the host country, ending a 28-year drought and handing Messi a long-awaited first title with his country.
However, a shocking loss against Saudi Arabia in the opening match of Argentina in the World Cup (2-1) prevented it from equalizing the record owned by Italy (37).
Messi described that setback as a "strong blow", but Scaloni knew the team's advancement quickly and made the necessary adjustments, as he pushed the energetic young Julian Alvares alongside Messi to form together a striking attacking force.
After that loss, Scaloni called for calm, dispelling any fears, "You have to have some sense, it's just a football match. It's difficult to make people understand that the sun will rise tomorrow, if you win or lose."
He followed that up with five consecutive victories (including a penalty shootout against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals), and another at Lusail Stadium on Sunday could see Scaloni achieve a feat neither Menotti nor Bilardo could, by completing the Copa America and World Cup double.
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