Sampaoli will stay on for Argentina’s final group game against Nigeria, according to the latest reports. But meetings reportedly carried deep into the early hours of Friday morning, past sunrise, with Sampaoli’s status in question.
Argentina has not been eliminated, and could still be a favorite to advance if Nigeria beats Iceland on Friday. But Thursday’s 3-0 defeat was nothing short of a debacle, and Sampaoli was one of many people at fault.
What exactly happened Thursday night?
According to Argentinean reports around 3 and 4 a.m. Russian time, players had gathered in a room at their base camp and asked that Sampaoli not coach the final game of the group stage. TyC Sports reported that the national team’s current general manager, Jorge Burruchaga, could take control of the team.
But Buruchaga, aware of the reports, according to Argentine journalist Martin Arevalo, considered them unfounded:
Burruchaga está al tanto de lo que se dijo en Argentina. Las considera versiones infundadas. Su cargo en la Selección es el de Manager.
— Martin Arevalo (@arevalo_martin) June 22, 2018
It’s unclear whether Sampaoli was involved in any discussions, but he reportedly went right to his room at the team’s base camp when the group arrived. He had scheduled training for 6 p.m. local time Friday.
Why Sampaoli will likely stay on
Hernan Castillo of TNT Sports LA reported late Thursday night that Sampaoli would stay on for the Nigeria game, and other reporters have since said that any concrete reports of his impending dismissal are false. Andres Marocco reported that Sampaoli would continue “for now.”
That’s not to say there weren’t discussions. Marocco wrote that “the early-morning situation was difficult.” But Sampaoli, according to Arevalo, wants to stay on, at least for one more game. And the Argentinean soccer federation won’t remove him.
In fact, it might be difficult to ax Sampaoli even after the World Cup. He is in year two of a five-year contract. His buyout, if triggered before Copa America 2019, is reportedly the total worth of the contract, $20 million. It seems unlikely the federation will be willing to eat that much money.
But there are other solutions. Castillo reported that Sampaoli would leave his post after the World Cup. Sampaoli could cede to public pressure and step down. Or he and the federation could reach some sort of compromise.
Has there been talk of players quitting?
Players won’t give up with knockout round qualification still within reach. But Castillo reported late Thursday that Marcos Rojo, Ever Banega, Lucas Biglia, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria would all retire from international duty after the World Cup. And he reported that Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi would probably join them.
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