World Cup winning coach Lionel Scaloni ponders Argentina future

Scaloni says the national team ‘needs a coach that has every possible energy’ but stopped short of saying he will quit during the team’s 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

Argentina's coach Lionel Scaloni reacts during a qualifying soccer match against Peru for the FIFA World Cup 2026 at the National stadium in Lima, Peru, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023.(AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Lionel Scaloni has led Argentina to title wins in the World Cup and Copa America [File: Martin Mejia/AP]

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has put into question his future at the national team in the middle of their qualification campaign for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

A Copa America title, a World Cup trophy and now a first-of-a-kind win in Brazil has left Scaloni wondering whether he’ll stay on.

Scaloni took the job after the 2018 World Cup, in which Argentina were eliminated in the last 16. Last year, Scaloni and his star captain, Lionel Messi, led the national team to their first World Cup title since 1986. His contract with the team runs until after the 2026 World Cup.

“I need to think a lot about what I will do,” Scaloni said at a news conference after Argentina’s 1-0 win over Brazil in a World Cup qualifying match on Tuesday.

“I need this time to think,” Scaloni said after the game in Rio de Janeiro, which was overshadowed by violence in the stands.

The kickoff was delayed by half an hour when Argentina fans and police clashed. The eventual result was Brazil’s first-ever home defeat in a World Cup qualifier.

Scaloni said he’d give it some thought before talking to Argentine Football Association President Claudio Tapia and the players “because this national team needs a coach that has every possible energy and that feels well”.

“It is not a goodbye. It is not something else. But I need to think because the bar is set really high and it is tough to go ahead,” Scaloni said. “It is tough to continue winning.”

He did not respond to other questions after making his comments.

The 45-year-old Scaloni, who had his contract extended after the 2022 World Cup triumph, replaced Jorge Sampaoli as coach.

Before he attended the news conference on Tuesday, Scaloni was seen giving emotional hugs and kisses to other members of the Argentina staff. It was the team’s last match of 2023.

Argentina lead the 10-team South American qualifying competition with 15 points from six matches, followed by Uruguay on 13 and Colombia on 12. Brazil could end the year in sixth position with seven points.

The 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada will have 48 teams, meaning direct entry for the top six teams from South America.

Source: News Agencies