Argentina’s Scaloneta gave Lionel Messi and co. the foundation for World Cup glory

When Argentina face Honduras and Jamaica in the upcoming friendlies, there will be few changes to Albiceleste The team that has not lost a game in more than two years. And why should there be? Since losing the Copa America 2019 semi-finals to Brazil, Lionel Scaloni’s side have been unbeaten in 33 matches, claiming the 2021 Copa del Rey for their first major title since 1993, qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in style, and crushing European champions Italy in June. A masterpiece at Wembley.

This would be great in any circumstances. But it’s almost out of the ordinary when two things are remembered. First, Argentina were in absolute disarray at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Second, junior coach Scaloni was appointed temporary officiant largely because he met the only criteria at the time – he wasn’t a huge financial risk. Now his team in Argentina is referred to as “Scaloneta” – the house they built.

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Argentina had previously bet on the long term with the prominent and energetic Jorge Sampaoli. It was a disaster that should have been foreseen. Argentina simply didn’t have the quick defenders and ball keepers needed to play Sampaoli’s way. The old team moved away from Russia – they flirted with a first-round elimination. With a huge bonus, Sampaoli was sacked. There was a shortage of money, and so Scaloni came along. He didn’t speak like the caretaker.

“[World Cup finalists] France and Croatia stole the ball and were in position to shoot in 3 or 4 seconds, “it was the finale of post-Russia.” This is the way football works, it is the football that I love and it is time to present this in Argentina. We’ll be more direct and vertical.”

There was an obvious problem with this approach. He’s not a suitable theatrical model for him Lionel Messi. I got off to a bad start. Scaloni’s first competitive match was the 2019 Copa America opener against Colombia. Argentina were all full of burdens, and easily managed to lose 2-0. The rest of the competition was Argentina’s attempts to move towards a more practical idea of ​​playing. They played well in that semi-final loss to Brazil. But with Messi and two strikers – Lautaro Martinez And the Sergio Aguero – They were very heavy and were easily injured in the counterattack.

But it is clear that Messi was on the plane. For the first time in his career, playing for the national team seemed to be the most important thing in his career. He emerged as a distant figure to his teammates in Argentina, happy in his own little world. Now he’s a cheerleading and more outspoken character, immersed in the group like never before. And by the time the World Cup qualifiers came, Argentina wasn’t so vertical and straight. They were a possession-based team, as the midfield trio Leandro ParedesAnd the Rodrigo Dibol And the Young Lo Celso It can dictate the rhythm of the match and make Messi play close to the opponent’s goal. It is the most cohesive collective idea that Argentina had throughout Messi’s long international days. On the song, once the match opens – like the second half against Italy at Wembley in June – it will be a pleasure to watch them.

Defense has always been a major problem. It definitely happened four years ago in Russia, and it’s sure to come under pressure at times in Qatar. But there has been a new confidence since June last year when he was the goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and the back Christian Romero They came together. The statistics are certainly impressive. In the last 12 matches, Argentina have conceded only two goals.

It would be surprising if Honduras on September 23 in Miami and Jamaica after four days in New Jersey exacerbate these numbers. But that is not the point. These are just warm-up games, working to bring the group together and make any late adjustments – it might be interesting, for example, to see if Brighton Alexis MacAlister He got another chance at a deeper midfield role he played in his last match, a friendly against Estonia last June.

But even a surprise defeat on these FIFA dates will not derail Scaloni’s project and are unlikely to have an impact on confidence as Argentina prepares for the World Cup. Scaloni realizes that his team have to lose some time – he cites Italy as an example, where their long, unbeaten run has not proved enough to get them to Qatar. Given the choice between a long run undefeated and winning the World Cup on December 18, there is no doubt which player Scaloni would choose. Maybe he can have both.