Tuesday 09 May 2023, 17:45

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni talks to Coaches Forum about FIFA World Cup™ campaign

  • Forum was organised to provide technical analysis of the FIFA World Cup 2022™

  • Coaches and technical directors from participating member associations were invited

  • Lionel Scaloni talked about some of the key moments in Argentina’s campaign

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni gave an insight into some of the details which helped his team win their third world title last year during the Post FIFA World Cup 2022™ Coaches Forum in Doha. Among other things, the coach told the forum how he dealt with the 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia, the importance of practising penalties, and how the team were able to get the best out of Lionel Messi. One of the key aspects identified by Lionel Scaloni was Argentina’s ability to vary their system. ”It’s not just important, it’s essential. My players know that we can change [our system] at any moment, and that we are not one-dimensional,” he said. “In the end, it ends up like a game of chess: trying to hurt the opposition and prevent them from hurting you.” But, more than anything else, motivation and dressing-room atmosphere were the key to a successful World Cup campaign. “The tactical side, the strategy, that is an important ingredient, but having players play for each other -- that’s crucial,” he said.

FIFA Competition Director Manolo Zubiria interviews Argentina's Head Coach Lionel Scaloni during the Post FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Coaches Forum

Their character shone through in the quarter-final against Netherlands when Argentina lost a 2-0 lead late in the game but recovered to win on penalties. They won a second penalty shootout in the final against France to claim the trophy. “When we went around to see who wanted to take a penalty, we had two players too many. We always had players that wanted to take a penalty. Those are perhaps the toughest moments,” he said, adding that practicing penalties also helped. “When there are people behind the goal…and 80,000 in the stadium, it’s not the same as kicking while in training. But I think that it counts for something. You feel the ball, you feel the strike.” He described the final group stage match against Poland as Argentina’s most complete performance and said the opening defeat to Saudi Arabia proved to be a blessing in disguise. “I can say that losing that match was a positive thing because I think it also gave the team a new perspective. It was all to play for, and perhaps that forced us to change our approach…...The team and the squad as a whole showed that they were ready for anything.”

Lionel Scaloni, Head Coach of Argentina, gestures

Lionel Scaloni explained to coaches and technical directors why Argentina were rarely exposed to counter-attacks. “We believe strongly in recovering the ball within the first three, four or five seconds after losing possession. If we can’t win the ball back, we move into midfield and wait. We never suffered many counter-attacks due to our team’s [defensive] work and keeping the opposition wingers in check. So, for us, when we prepare how to attack, we also prepare for how the opposition will look to counter-attack, and we didn’t suffer many of those.” Getting the best out of Lionel Messi was another key point. “I think is important, to realise what a player like him needs. In the first few months with the national team we tried to play a bit faster, a bit more direct and noticed he wasn’t comfortable and his teammates weren’t comfortable, so I think one of our merits, of all of us, the squad as a whole, was having found those players who could let him play his football.” Modern preparation meant that more experienced players could now play a month-long tournament without problems: “Nowadays, a 35 year old player is like a 29 or 30 year old, in the old days. Players take care of themselves much more and they spend 24 hours a day thinking about football. I think a player at that age in football today is able to play at a high level, including seven matches in a row, as many have demonstrated.”

Lionel Messi of Argentina (L) and Lionel Scaloni (R) holds the FIFA World Cup

Finally, he touched on the emotion of winning the most important trophy in football. After the final whistle, the emotional coach went and sat alone on the team bench to a absorb the moment. “I stayed there for 30 seconds, and I saw the players and all my people celebrating. I still get so excited, I think it's a unique moment. It's priceless…..to see all of them there celebrating, for me it was one of the most beautiful moments since I've been playing football and since I have been coaching. No doubt about it. It was 30 seconds which I'm going to cherish for the rest of my life.”