Argentina are in a state of crisis as their World Cup dreams hang in the balance following an abysmal 3-0 defeat at the hands of Croatia on Thursday night, with coach Jorge Sampaoli facing the sack and seven players to announce their international retirement after the tournament.
Argentina’s ability to get out of the group is no longer in their own hands and they must win against Nigeria in their final game and pray that others results (Nigeria vs Iceland and Iceland vs Croatia) also go in their favour.
Sampaoli had changed tactics and personnel following the opening draw against Iceland and it left La Albiceleste totally unable to cope.
Speaking after the game, he took responsibility for what had happened, conceding, “The loss is my responsibility. I went in with a lot of hope and I am feeling a lot of pain with the defeat. For sure I didn’t read the match as I should have.”
But Argentina’s players are seemingly less than impressed as they watch their last hopes of international silverware go up in smoke in front of their eyes.
And when Sergio Aguero was quizzed about Sampaoli’s post-match comments by Argentine broadcaster TyC, he replied, “He can say what he wants,” before angrily walking out.
There have been suggestions from the Argentina media that the squad has held a meeting and have asked that Sampaoli be removed from his position even before the Nigeria game.
It would be a dramatic twist, drawing comparisons with the French mutiny against coach Raymond Domenech in 2010.
But as long as there is a glimmer of hope of staying in the competition the players will do everything they can to stay alive. This could be the best and only way they think it can happen.
In the event that Sampaoli is shown the door before the crunch match next Tuesday, the players are said to want 1986 World Cup winner Jorge Burruchaga to take the reins.
Lionel Messi, who has already quit international football once and had hinted in recent weeks at doing so again after this tournament, will lead the potential retirements.
The aforementioned Aguero, Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Marcos Rojo and Ever Banega, all of whom have lost at least two major finals with the national team in recent years, are tipped to follow the example and hang up their international boots as well.