Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni insisted he has already passed a major test of leadership ahead of his team's Copa America third-place playoff against Chile.
After several years of chopping and changing managers, Argentina was hopeful Scaloni would lead it to trophy glory in Brazil to prove without any doubt he is the right man for the job. He was appointed last year in the wake of Argentina's World Cup failure, when Jorge Sampaoli was in charge.
At the Copa, however, Argentina missed out after losing 2-0 to host Brazil in the semifinals and inevitably that led to questions being asked of Scaloni's leadership. He addressed that issue on Friday, saying: "I do not feel as though I am on trial. I think my test has already passed. Bringing these players and making them play was my test, and I did it. What we came to do, we did."
Scaloni believes he has selected the best available squad for Argentina and said: "These players will be the future of the national team, whoever the coach is."
'Everyone is motivated'
His contract runs until the end of the year, and it might help Scaloni's prospects of a longer run at the job if Argentina can deliver an assured performance on Saturday at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo.
"The match with Chile is important," said Scaloni. "We want to finish in the best way possible. Everyone is motivated."
The match is a repeat of the 2015 and 2016 final, both of which Chile won on penalties after goalless draws.
Chile's Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda looked back to the title match of three years ago, saying both teams are now in a new era. Arturo Vidal is a major doubt for the game, Rueda revealed, saying the Barcelona midfielder's sprained ankle needed to be cared for. "But we know his character and his desire to be out there," Rueda added.
The former Honduras and Ecuador boss saw Chile lose 3-0 to Peru in its last-four game and, like Scaloni, he wants to leave Brazil on a winning note. "It is an important match in every sense," Rueda said. "For dignity, pride and for wanting to finish well in a tournament at which something we achieved something important."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Argentina - Lionel Messi
Messi was furious with the officiating in Argentina's semifinal defeat, reflecting the mood of a nation after two possible penalties were turned down and not referred to VAR. If he plays, will the Barcelona superstar be in the mood to take out his frustration on Chile? Messi has suggested he is ready to play on at least until next year's Copa America, which Argentina is co-hosting with Colombia, so this is not likely to be a farewell game.
Chile — Alexis Sanchez
While his Manchester United team-mates prepare to jet off to Australia on tour, Sanchez is finishing off his campaign in Brazil. The man who has flattered to deceive at Old Trafford could give United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a close-season boost by signing off from this tournament with a stirring performance — and he could still finish as the Copa America's outright top scorer given he is one of 13 players tied for the lead on two goals.
KEY OPTA FACTS
- Argentina has won 59 of its 88 meetings against Chile in all competitions (D23 L6).
- Argentina lost on the only previous occasion it played in a third-place play-off in a Copa America tournament, beaten 2-1 by Colombia in 1987.
- This will be the first third-place play-off between two teams that have faced each other before in a Copa America final.
- Chile and Argentina lost their semifinal games against Peru and Brazil, respectively, despite having attempted 10 shots more than their opponents (Chile 19-9 Peru; Argentina 14-4 Brazil).
- Chile's Charles Aranguiz has created the most chances (17) in the 2019 Copa America; at least four more than any other player.
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