Scaloni and Mascherano, two sides of the same coin

Javier Mascherano He left the AFA premises in Ezeiza on Sunday morning with the feeling (not the conviction) that he will continue to be the technical director of the Under 20 team. The president Claudio “Chiqui” Tapia He listened to his report on the Argentine elimination of the South American Under 20 team in Colombia and, in principle, decided to ratify it in his position. More than the very poor results achieved (three defeats in four games), Tapia evaluated the continuity of the project and how important it is, in his opinion, the presence of Mascherano within it.

In principle, It is a good sign that Tapia has not been carried away by the winds of success that usually prevail in Argentine soccer and has not listened to the voices of some leaders who in a low voice foist Mascherano “not transmitting winning mystique”. They continue to bill him for the three consecutive finals that he lost as a player of the senior team (Brazil World Cup 2014 and the Copas América in Chile in 2015 and Centenario in the United States in 2016) plus his performance in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But the firm and fast Tapia’s decision to support him despite everything, should not ignore that the skid of the Sub 20 in Cali has been a very negative fact for Argentine soccer.

Mascherano and Scaloni, in any case, could well represent two sides of the same coin. The two were bets supported at the time only by the vision and smell of Tapia. They assumed without previous experience, as a representation of the new. But while Scaloni, with the support of the great work team made up of Pablo Aimar, Walter Samuel and Roberto Ayala, led the Argentine National Team to a world title, Mascherano, without that qualified support, could not get the Sub 20 to advance in a group in which three of the five teams participating in the final Hexagonal classified. There were many opportunities to rectify the course and be able to continue after the unexpected initial defeat against Paraguay. The Sub 20 did not take advantage of any.

The generation that represents the closest replacement for the world champion team, the one that will arrive at the 2026 Cup at the age of 23 or 24, did not measure up in Colombia. There was a lack of a clear line of play and nervousness and mistakes of all kinds became widespread after that unhappy start. Very few players (Nicolás Paz, Gino Infantino and Brian Aguirre) justified having gotten there. Surely Mascherano appealed to all his experience and did what was within his power to rescue his team from confusion. But apparently, the message did not arrive.

The happy echoes of the World Cup feat in Qatar continue to resound and there is plenty of back to endure the bad moments. For that reason alone and because he feels more credible than ever, Tapia ratified Mascherano’s confidence as head of the Under 20s. The future will tell about the success or otherwise of this decision.

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