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SPORTS | 27-02-2023 15:31

Confirmed: Lionel Scaloni signs contract to coach Argentina until 2026

The Scaloneta continues! Argentina's World Cup-winning coach signs new contract until 2026 on eve of FIFA Best awards.

Argentina's World Cup-winning coach Lionel Scaloni has signed a new contract until the 2026 World Cup, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) announced on Monday.

Scaloni, who took over the role in 2018 and guided the Albiceleste to glory in Qatar in December, agreed the new deal while attending the FIFA Best awards in Paris. 

He is nominated as the world’s best coach of the year and will find out later today if he will take home the prize. Lionel Messi is nominated for best player, with Emiliano Martinez up for the goalkeeper award. Argentina’s fans are also in line for an award.

News of the contract comes after weeks of negotiations with AFA chief Claudio ‘Chiqui’ Tapia, who confirmed the agreement with a post on social media.

"When trust is high, communication is simple and effective. We continue to strengthen the national team project, together with Lionel Scaloni, the world champion coach," wrote Tapia.  Just a few minutes earlier, the official Twitter account of the national team had posted: “Confirmed, Lionel Scaloni is here for a while – we carry on!”

"Continuity assured: President Tapia and coach Scaloni met today to secure the extension of the link until 2026," AFA wrote in a separate statement.

Scaloni, 44, led Argentina to the Copa América title in 2021 – the Albiceleste's first international trophy since 1993. He then masterminded the nation’s third World Cup title with a 4-2 penalty shoot-out victory over France in the final in Doha after a gripping 3-3 draw in extra time.

He took over as coach from Jorge Sampaoli after a last-16 exit at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, initially on an interim basis before making the job his own.

At the time, not everyone had welcomed the arrival of the understated Scaloni at the helm of the national team.

The late Diego Maradona, himself a former national team coach, offered a particularly withering assessment, praising Scaloni's character but telling the Clarín newspaper: "He's not even capable of directing traffic."

Scaloni had no previous experience as a head coach, and was only supposed to be in charge for two months while the federation searched for Sampaoli's successor.

He inherited a squad scarred by a series of near-misses – the 2014 World Cup final defeat was followed by back-to-back Copa América final losses to Chile on penalties in 2015 and 2016.

His vision for the team impressed, amongst others Messi, who was left disillusioned with international football after the 2018 World Cup exit.

Scaloni led Argentina on a 36-match unbeaten run heading into last year's World Cup, the highlight of which was the 2021 Copa América triumph in Brazil, which ended a 28-year trophy drought.

Then in Qatar, after a shock opening loss to Saudi Arabia, he engineered a trophy-winning run to complete a Copa América and World Cup double.

Argentina will defend their world title in 2026 in a World Cup jointly hosted by Mexico, the United States and Canada.

Scaloni’s side is due to play two friendlies at the end of March against Panama and Curaçao.

The Pujato-born ex-right back has overseen 37 wins, 15 draws and only five defeats during his five-year spell in charge. 

 

– TIMES with agencies

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