Lionels Scaloni and Messi embrace. Natacha Pisarenko

Cooney on Soccer: How Lionel Scaloni salvaged Messi's dream

Our latest members newsletter looks at how Argentina have turned their World Cup around.

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This article by Gavin Cooney is available in full exclusively to The42 Members.

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Is this World Cup now taking on a shape of destiny for Lionel Messi? 

The Great Man has narrowed it now to two final outcomes, both paralleled in history.  

Either he forever etches himself with an edition of the tournament like Maradona did in 1986, or else it’s a repeat of 1990, where Maradona helped Argentina to recover from a shock defeat in the opening game and reach a final where they were ultimately beaten.  

Messi has already lost a final, victory on Sunday would complete the symmetry.  

Regardless of what happens from henceforth, great credit is due to rooking coach Lionel Scaloni, who is doing one of the most remarkable managerial jobs we’ve seen at the World Cup. 

Scaloni took the job accidentally, initially temporarily after Jorge Sampaoli was sacked following the 2018 World Cup psychodrama. He then led Argentina to a Copa America triumph and a 36-game unbeaten run, until everything imploded on the opening day against Saudi Arabia. 

To react to such a shattering emotional blow in such a short amount of time to reach the final is a stunning achievement. Scaloni spoke brilliantly and emotionally after last night’s game, saying it is a privilege to coach his current squad of players.  

“When we make mistakes”, Scaloni said of he and his coaching staff, “they help us out.” He clearly has the respect of Messi: Scaloni was left with tears in his eyes after their lengthy embrace at full-time.  

When the history of Argentina’s World Cup is written, the 63rd minute of the second game will be remembered as the moment everything clicked…

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