Sampaoli heaps praise on Scaloni's Argentina

by IANS |

Buenos Aires, Sep 21 (IANS) Few teams will be as fine-tuned for this year's FIFA World Cup as Argentina, according to former Albiceleste manager Jorge Sampaoli.

The two-time world champions have gone 32 games without defeat in a three-year run that included last year's Copa America title -- their first major trophy since 1993.

"The national team will enter the tournament with a lot of confidence and in great form," the Ole newspaper quoted Sampaoli as saying. "It's the middle of the (European) season but few teams will be in the same (physical) state as Argentina."

Sampaoli, who was Argentina's manager at the 2018 World Cup in Russia -- when they were eliminated by eventual champions France in the last 16 -- stopped short of calling Lionel Scaloni's men tournament favourites, reports Xinhua.

"I don't dare to say who can be champions," he said. "Argentina are in good shape, with a level of confidence that can allow them to have a good World Cup. But predicting the winner is very difficult."

The 62-year-old reserved special praise for captain Lionel Messi, who at 35 years of age is almost certain to be playing in his last World Cup.

"Managing Messi is managing a genius," Sampaoli said. "He is a player who is above everyone else. With two glances he gives you a parameter of what is happening."

"He is a silent leader, but he understands what is going to happen, he knows when the team is well prepared and when it has no chance of winning. He knows, beyond his technical abilities and his game-reading abilities, that's why he's a genius."

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