ArgentinaThe dancing continued as their fans sang along to their World Cup semi-final match on Tuesday CroatiaThat’s followed by either a shot at eternal glory in Sunday’s final, or a sad ending Lionel Messi era in Saturday’s third-place consolation game.
Except for the entrance to glory, they are the opponents against whom, perversely, this whole improbable adventure becomes a possibility.
Argentina face Croatia in the second match of the 2018 World Cup group stage in Russia. The Albiceleste The coach at the time was Jorge Sampaoli — highly rated, highly talented, highly volatile It always seemed like a bad fit. Argentina lacked players, particularly defenders, to execute Sampaoli’s trademark dynamic high-pressing game.
They were separated by Croatia. And in the closing stages of the 3-0 defeat, Sampaoli stood on the touchline swearing at opposing players. It was a grim picture, and a moment when Argentina’s Football Association began to wonder if it was a mistake to give him a long-term contract.
Things improved after the tournament with Argentina’s experienced players taking over some of the responsibilities. They beat Nigeria Wasn’t humiliated to make it to the knockouts and lose in the round of 16 to the eventual champions France. But — though it will cost them — a change must be made. Sampaoli was sacked and, initially with the undeniable quality of coming cheap on a caretaker basis, Lionel Scaloni was named as his replacement.
Now, more than four years later, here we are. Scaloni has led Argentina to their first senior title since 1993 — when they won the Copa America last year — and now to the semi-finals of the World Cup.
It’s been quite a campaign for someone with no previous senior coaching experience, who in 2018 has been relatively low-profile as an observer of potential future opponents.
But experience can sometimes count for little, and it was Scaloni who celebrated Friday’s victory against a more prestigious opponent. Argentinian Win in the quarter finals Over The Netherlands And coach Louis van Gaal may have only come from a penalty shootout, but barring a late Dutch rally at the end of normal time, Scaloni’s men were in control of the match.
It ended up being a game where the less experienced coach emerged with considerable credit. A coach has three main responsibilities: team selection, strategy, and setting the emotional tone in which the work is done. Emotionally, Argentina responded extremely well after losing their lead in normal time in such dramatic fashion; They shrugged it off and were the much better side in extra time.
Albiceleste fans celebrate Lautaro Martinez’s decisive penalty kick against the Netherlands to send Argentina into the World Cup semi-finals.
Tactically, too, Scaloni has had to go to the well — and responded to the challenge of offering a potentially disappointing opening-day defeat. Saudi Arabia. Saudi coach Herve Renard obviously studied the Argentine long and hard. He saw that Scaloni’s team aimed to create a problem with the ball in hand, weaving their patient midfield pattern, spinning the opposition defense around until they could slip Messi in close enough to score. So his team forced Argentina to play a different game, with high pressure, putting them under pressure and taking them into a game they didn’t want to play.
For his audacity, the Saudi victory must rank as one of the greatest World Cup upsets of all time, but it did not derail Argentina as Scaloni managed to marry two contrasting passions. He had enough faith in his original idea to stick to his guns while recognizing the need for change.
Scaloni immediately realized that Argentina’s then 36-game unbeaten run didn’t count for much. Things will be difficult now; Adaptation will be required. They won’t be able to dictate their own rhythm of joy throughout the game. Going forward, Messi had to pick his moments — which were more likely to open up as the game progressed.
With Messi acting decisively but sporadically, more dynamism was needed in the front row — and so was the centre-forward. Lautaro Martinez Julian gave way to Alvarez, a striker with the soul of a midfielder. This allowed them to push for victory against them Mexico, Poland And Australia.
And then, especially against the Dutch, another change was needed. Since the final minutes of June’s friendly with Estonia, Argentina have been flirting with a three-centre-back formation. They had closed some of their previous World Cup games with this formation, but it started against the Netherlands.
Ecuador Changed with success against the Dutch during the group stage draw and Argentina followed suit. as United States Found during their round-of-16 defeat, the Netherlands’ sharpest attacking weapon Denzel Dumfries, advancing from the right wing-back to the front. Ecuador shut him down and so did Argentina — and barring a late charge at the end of normal time, orange Never threatened. Scaloni’s tinkering paid off.
Croatia pose a different challenge, and Scaloni will wonder how to win the midfield battle, especially against the revered Croatia captain. Luke Modric. But he will certainly bring something more effective than Sampaoli did four years ago.