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There may not be another manager at the World Cup who has overachieved as much as Argentina’s Lionel Scaloni. The 44-year-old had been riding a 35-game winning streak dating back to 2019 before that shock loss to Saudi Arabia, but even so, he wasn’t expected to be the man to turn Argentina’s fortunes around.

Scaloni was an assistant to previous national team manager Jorge Sampaoli at the World Cup in Russia four years ago. When Sampaoli was fired, the Argentine federation passed on more established coaches in order to appoint Scaloni as caretaker on an interim basis.

Scaloni had previously coached Argentina’s under-20 side, but the senior team felt like a step too far, until it wasn’t. Argentina defeated Brazil 1-0 in the final of last year’s Copa America in Brazil, their first international trophy since 1993. Scaloni also led Argentina to an undefeated World Cup qualifying campaign.

Perhaps most importantly, Scaloni’s close relationship with Lionel Messi has been instrumental in the forward’s international resurgence at the best possible time.

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