Argentina's Sampaoli Road to Recovery

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(WFI) Argentina’s national coach Jorge Sampaoli has recently said that the World Cup is a “ revolver to the head” of Lionel Messi.
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli (AFA)


Now after Argentina’s debacle in the 6-1 loss to Spain, Sampaoli knows that more than a revolver, the World Cup has become a “cannon” to his own head.

What happened in Madrid on Tuesday was Argentina’s worst defeat in almost a century of international matches for a country accustomed to winning (it has lifted two World Cups trophies and has played 5 final matches of the FIFA tournament). 

Argentina’s humiliation at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium against the Spaniards is also a major red flag that questions whether Sampaoli’s tenure as Argentina’s coach has simply become a job too big for him.

The 6-1 loss comes less than 80 days before the start of the Russia World Cup and suggests that Argentina is lagging behind in establishing a style of play around Messi, arguably the best footballer in the history of the game.
  
Against Spain Sampaoli tried to go at Julen Lopetegui’s side punch for punch, almost dismissing that Spain unites in its squad some of the best playmakers in the world. Argentina only sustained 45 minutes against the Spanish talented ball-handlers before, as expected, it was knocked down and never recovered. 

Isco’s hat trick and further goals from Iago Aspas, Diego Costa and Thiago Alcantara saw Argentina lose by a record-equaling five-goal margin as Nicolas Otamendi's lone goal ensured it wouldn't be the heaviest international deficit Argentina had suffered in defeat.

After the blowout, Sampaoli admitted that his side had been "slapped" by the 2010 FIFA World Cup winners, but seemed to minimize the damage sustained.

“I take the blame for the goals, don't point to the players," he accepted in front of the media. "The difference [between the sides] in the game wasn't as large as the result”.

"We have to learn from this. It cannot happen in the World Cup,” he added

The only reason at this point that Argentina may still feel hopeful heading to Russia is Messi.

Not long ago, Sampaoli admitted the two-time world champions' chances at the World Cup in Russia will depend far more on the Barcelona star than his own influence.

"This is going to be (Messi’s) team. It is more his team than mine," the Argentina coach has said.

"He is the best and is in a stage of maturity that he can carry the team on his shoulders.”

The Argentine boss remembers that his team barely qualified for the 2018 World Cup, needing a Messi hat-trick in Ecuador on October 10 of last year to get in. Before that, draws against Peru and Venezuela had put this team's qualification in jeopardy.

Argentina knows that time's running out. It's now or never for Sampaoli to decide on those players he must take to the cup.

Perhaps it is time to give a new chance to guys like Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi who shine in Italy’s Serie A but have yet to deliver the goods with their national team. On the contrary, maybe it is time to bench veterans like Rojo and Mascherano. Even possibly the moment has come to ignore altogether Gonzalo Higuain, whom Argentina’s fans will never forgive for the close-range chances he missed in the last three finals the national team has played…and lost.

World Champion Jorge Valdano has probably said it best.

“I can imagine the state of confusion Sampaoli must be going through. He probably does not even know where to start about rebuilding his team.”


By INSIDER Javier Monne

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