Lionel Scaloni: Argentina's unsung hero behind World Cup glory

Sports Desk

Lionel Messi celebrates with Argentina's coach #00 Lionel Scaloni I AFP

Lionel Scaloni was still playing football for Atalanta in Italy when Lionel Messi-led Argentina narrowly lost their 2014 World Cup final in Brazil. Scaloni, like every Argentinian, was heartbroken and prayed for another opportunity to grab the ultimate prize in football. However, it was his destiny to be on the sidelines when Argentina beat France on penalties to lift the World Cup in Qatar.

It was a battle of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) teammates Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe, with Messi scoring a brace and converting a penalty and Mbappe getting a hat trick. However, it was Argentina which came out on top over France in the FIFA World Cup 2022 final at Lusail by 4-2 on penalties after both teams finished at a stalemate at the end of extra time, with the scoreline reading 3-3.

By the time Argentina qualified for World Cup in 2018, Scaloni was sitting in the dugout beside Jorge Sampaoli in Russia. To this point, his only experience performing as a manager was coaching the youth side at his local amateur club in Mallorca. A year later, Scaloni and Pablo Aimar were named caretaker managers of the Argentina national team until the end of the year. He led the team to the 2019 Copa América and earned third place in Brazil.

Scaloni was nominated to the Argentina World Cup team in 2006, which lost to Germany on penalties in the quarterfinals. Despite not being able to recreate the magic for Argentina during his playing career, Scaloni did help his side end the 28-year trophyless drought by winning the 2021 Copa América title after defeating Brazil 1–0.

Even though Argentina's successful campaign at the 2022 FIFA World Cup has been headlined by talismanic forward Lionel Messi, the role played by Scaloni in Qatar is nothing short of managerial brilliance.

In fact, his perseverance was on full display when Argentina defeated champions France in the World Cup final on Sunday, where his strategies and tactics led his team to glory.

However, things weren't so easy when he was tasked to lead one of the biggest national sides in world football. It is worth remembering that legendary Diego Maradona said he would "go to the motorcycling World Cup, not the football one," as per the Olympic website.

But only four years later, with one Copa America victory under his belt and a World Cup title in his grasp, Scaloni is no longer the subject of jokes. He managed to assemble a team that saw 35-match unbeaten streak coming into the World Cup.

One thing that has distinguished Argentina during this World Cup is the sense of togetherness the team has exuded, with players who appear to be just as content off the field as they are when they are winning together.

Despite facing a setback against Saudi Arabia in their opening fixture in Qatar, Argentina managed to regain their lost momentum and morale to advance to the final in Qatar. While players like Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez have received a lot of attention, Scaloni deserves a lot of credit for the way the team has been inspired throughout the competition.

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