Lionel Scalloni he spends his days at his house in Mallorca soaking up football. From Buenos Aires he receives videos and reports of Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland, the rivals that Argentina will have in the World Cup in Qatar. Watch all the matches you can from the different European leagues in general and from the Champions League in particular. And he maintains permanent chats and video calls with his main assistants: Walter Samuel, Roberto Ayala, Pablo Aimar and the physical trainer Luis Martín.
The video analyst of the National Team, Matías Manna, feeds material not only to him, but also to the rest of the members of the coaching staff. Scaloni spends his time looking at images of matches, soccer players and plays that he would like to rehearse with his team.
Seven months before the start of the World Cup, the technical director does not want to leave details to chance and that is why he also he is invaded by some concerns related to the preparation and others with the particular time of year in which the contest will be played to avoid the unbearable heat of the Arab summer: it will not be in the middle of the year as usual, but from November 21 to December 18.
There are two issues that, in private, keep the coach awake at night. One is the lack of definition of the number of matches that Argentina will play before the World Cup. And the other is the very little working time in which he will be able to have the footballers in the previous months and also in the final prelude to the World Cup, since the European leagues will end too close to the start of the World Cup.
Scaloni would like to have the national team’s calendar defined between now and the World Cup and for now he is only certain that on June 1 they will face Italy, in London, for the Euro-American final. Everything else is rumours. One of them says that the classic suspended before Brazil It could be played a few days after the match against the Italians at Wembley to inaugurate the Lusail stadium, which will host the World Cup final and Argentina’s first match in Qatar, against Saudi Arabia. Another rumor indicates that the game against Brazil could move to Australiaalthough the truth is that the TAS not yet resolved if it will give rise to the request of the AFA to earn the points at the desks of the FIFA or if it will determine that the classic should be played yes or yes.
Before the World Cup, the two windows of FIFA dates to play friendlies are the one mentioned in June and another that will go from September 19 to 27. Scaloni intends to play against a rival from CONCACAF and against another Arab. This last possibility could come to fruition already in Qatar, in the days before the start of the World Cup. However, for now it is only about wishes and possibilities that keep the coach somewhat worried.
In accordance with the soccer growth that his team had after consecrating himself in the Copa América in Brazil 2021, Scaloni knows that the preparation will be much shorter than he would like. In that sense, it has only one consolation: the 32 participating teams fit the generals of the law. This is because the European Leagues will end too close to the start of the World Cup. The English Premier, the German Bundesliga, the Italian Serie A, the Spanish League and the French Ligue 1, for example, will play their last game before Qatar 2022 on November 13, that is, eight days before the opening clash that will be played by Senegal and Netherlands. FIFA regulations require that all players be with their teams on November 14 and that is what will happen.
Consequently, the last days of preparation will serve for not much more than trying to assimilate the football concepts that are not entirely firm in Scaloni’s opinion. And it remains to be seen if, in this framework of limited time availability, the AFA will end up closing a friendly with an Arab team or with a club from that region for five or six days before the debut against Saudi Arabia, scheduled for Tuesday, November 22 at 7 Argentine time.
As a counterweight to those concerns, Scaloni was very satisfied after recently resolving another of the issues that worried him: the place of concentration and training that the team will have in Qatar. The coach wanted a place where the footballers could practice and rest, avoiding transfers to go to training, and that is what they will be able to do in the Qatar University complex. It is a giant venue, 25,500 square meters, with more than eight first-class courts (two of them with artificial light for training at night due to high temperatures) and a stadium with capacity for ten thousand people. Scaloni was able to tour it completely when he was in Qatar for the World Cup draw and he is more than satisfied with the facilities, which have already been officially reserved by the AFA.
As for the football aspect itself, Scaloni would have liked Paris Saint Germain to stay alive in the Champions League so that Lionel Messi, Angel Di María and Leandro Paredes, three undisputed starters of his team, had the highest European competition until the last instances. However, the French team was eliminated in the round of 16 at the hands of Real Madrid and then Messi, Di María and Paredes were left without playing the most popular games in the Champions League.
Scaloni is also attentive to a question that he considers central: that the soccer players of the selected one have continuity in their clubs. For the coach, this is far from being a minor issue in the coming months. That is why he follows closely the progress of all the players in his clubs and also anxiously awaits what will become of the future of Paulo Dybala, who will leave Juventus in the middle of the year and still does not know where he will act from July.
Scaloni, in short, has reasonable and at the same time bearable concerns, perhaps the same ones that any other colleague of his would have in his place. At least so far, no serious problems are in sight. Deep down, the coach is as enthusiastic as the Argentine fans, hoping that the team’s current undefeated record of 31 games extends until December 18, when the World Cup final is played, that precious object of desire.