Sampaoli seems to have made the biggest mistake of his life by taking charge of Argentine team. He had to take charge of this team to give new life to Bauza’s failure. But while organizing the team, he was in a state of panic. The World Cup was ahead, so a mountain-equal pressure. But the team with which he traveled to Russia, Iceland broke its back in the first match. Then limped into the next round and lost to Russia, ending World Cup dreams and Sampaoli’s career.
A team on the brink of failure was then handed over to an infamous coach named Lionel Scaloni. So far he was in charge of Sampaoli’s assistant coach. So this Argentina is his first mission as a head coach.
The entire Argentinian media erupted in anger at the news of Scaloni being assigned as Argentina football manager. Maradona also expressed his disappointment. He said,
I don’t want him for my team; he couldn’t even control traffic.Diego Maradona, late Argentine legend
Many thought that Scaloni would not last with Argentina. Maybe it will be only a few months. But the infamous Scaloni stayed with Argentina for four consecutive years. He was made head coach from interim coach. Under him, Argentina won the Copa America, ending a generation of regrets, followed by Finalissima with Italy.
Scaloni’s journey with Argentina began with a friendly against Mexico. Then they appeared in the 2019 Copa America. They started their Copa journey losing by 2 goals against Colombia. In terms of performance, Argentina’s start was quite uneventful. Scaloni was able to take the country to the Copa semi-finals. The opponent was Brazil; Argentina’s dream of reaching the Copa final ended there with two goals from Jesus and Firmino. But that Brazil is the end; Days pass, years pass, Argentina never loses a match.
The Argentina team is not very attractive to the naked eye. Brazil, England, or France all have lots of star players, but the stars in Scaloni’s team are actually one star: Lionel Messi. But Dibu as the goalkeeper, Lisandro in defense, and Christian Romero, Paredes, or De Paul in midfield are worthy companions of Messi. Despite the lack of traditional star players, when this team took the field, Argentina’s face changed dramatically in terms of team performance. That’s why when Argentina went to the World Cup in Qatar after 36 consecutive matches unbeaten, they were one of the biggest contenders to win the World Cup. From ordinary football fans to European football experts, Argentina was accepted as the biggest favorite in the World Cup 2022.
World Cup Stumble
The first match in the World Cup was against Saudi Arabia. Argentina was ahead in strength. The start was not bad for Scaloni’s team. Lionel Messi’s penalty in the first half helped Argentina take the lead. They should be able to take out the match very easily. But at the beginning of the second half, the favor of the dice was reversed. Saudi Arabia seems to have learned the secret strategy for stopping Argentina.
2 goals in a row. Even after conceding two goals, Saudi Arabia was more desperate. On the other hand, Argentina was completely confused by the sudden goal. That’s why it took them about 25 minutes to come back in this match. But some more chapters remain to be written in the historical story of Saudi Arabia. In the end, the goalkeeper of Saudi Arabia stopped several attacks by Argentina. And after more than two centuries, Argentina started their World Cup journey with a loss.
It didn’t take a moment for Argentina to go from favorite to ‘overrated’. Questions began to arise about Argentina’s goalkeeper and defender. Apart from the criticism of the players, Scaloni’s football strategy started to be questioned again and again.
Scaloni Hold It Together
The opponents in the next two matches were Mexico and Poland. Argentina must win both matches to advance to the next round. With such an equation ahead, maybe many would have lost faith in themselves and taken the whole group to the corner of the ditch. But Argentina never backed down from their dream for a moment. On a mission to achieve the dream, the entire team was held together by their coach – Lionel Scaloni.
After the humiliating loss to Saudi Arabia, Lionel Messi said,
“I will tell the fans to trust us. We will not let you down.”Lionel Messi, Argentinian footballer
Second match against Mexico. Scaloni made several changes to his team. However, suddenly Messi and his team could not play well. It took time to fix the middle ground. It took time to break down Mexico’s defense wall. Then came the magic of those alien Argentinian feet. Messi scored a goal, and Enzo scored another. Messi gave the proof that Messi and all of Argentina did not give false hope.
Scaloni’s football strategy is not complicated. But understanding the situation in the field, his changes are quite effective. He did not bring Lisandro onto the field with Australia and Poland. Not that Lissando isn’t a worthy defender of a place in the XI. However, Scaloni gave Romero a place for his height after seeing the height and head goals of players from Poland and Australia. But when the match needed a change, he used Lisandro.
On the right side of the fullback, once there was Montiel and another day Molina. On the left side, he also brought down Acuna and Tagliafico. Young midfielder Enzo was given a box-to-box role. On that day, Enzo repeatedly ran through the boundaries of the opponent’s half-space. He took strong shots from outside the D-box. Again, he played the holding midfielder position. He can be seen in a 4-4-2 formation with two defenders to form a three-man defensive wall. Scaloni’s tactics and eleven selections are unpredictable. If you think you know something for sure in advance, then you are wrong.
Scaloni gave a great example of tactics in the World Cup against the Dutch. The Dutch goalkeeper and Louis van Gaal criticized Messi and Argentina in the pre-match press conference. But Scaloni gave no answer. He said Argentina will answer everything on the field.
Louis van Gaal usually uses a 3-5-2 formation. The top two strikers, Memphis and Gakpo, never went down in this strategy. These two stay high in the midfield even when the opposition attacks. Therefore, if the ball comes to their feet, a long pass will increase the chances of Gakpo and Memphis getting a goal. In a traditional 4-3-3 formation, there are only two defenders against these two strikers. A two-on-two defense is quite dangerous. That’s why Scaloni played Argentina in a 3-5-2 formation. The long pass from underneath or the understanding between Dumfries and Memphis didn’t happen due to Scaloni’s tactics that day. Contrary to Gaal’s words, Scaloni answered right on the field. However, Scaloni made such changes in almost every match of the World Cup by understanding the opponent’s strategy. That’s why it will not be wrong to give him the title of one of the best ‘Tactical Coach’ of this World Cup.
Breaking the Curse
Argentina did not win the World Cup for 36 years. Maradona lifted the last World Cup, after which they reached the finals of two World Cups and came very close but did not take home the golden trophy. Many Argentina fans consider this World Cup drought to be the result of the ‘The curse of Tilcara’.
The ‘Virgen de Copacabana’ statue in Tilcara is highly revered by the people there. There is a tradition that if one goes in front of this statue and wants something from his heart, he will surely get it. But there is one condition, if you go in front of this statue and make a promise, it must be kept. Maradona’s team visited the statue in 1986. He wanted the blessing of winning the World Cup. There was also a promise that if they won the World Cup, they would come again in front of this statue and express their gratitude. But the Argentine team never returned to Tilcara.
People say Argentina’s World Cup drought is the result of this curse. Once again, Scaloni led Messi’s team to the World Cup final. Argentina’s World Cup drought has ended. A few days ago, Argentina’s football chief, Claudio Tapia, visited Tilcara. If there is such a thing as a curse, he may have come to break it for the entire team. And coming from nothing, Lionel Scaloni has decorated Argentina, making the dream come true. A new Argentina, Scaloni’s Argentina, is free of the curse.
The first credit for turning Argentina’s fortunes must go to Lionel Scaloni.