Lusail : Argentina's successful campaign at the 2022 FIFA World Cup has been headlined by talismanic forward Lionel Messi, playing his last World Cup but there is another lesser-known Lionel, who also is a prominent force behind the success of the Argentine team.
Lionel Scaloni will be in charge of Argentina when the team squares against defending champions France in the World Cup final on Sunday and hoping the strategies and tactics he has meticulously planned will lead his team to glory. The other Lionel in the team's recent success is hardly talked about for the detailed work that the coach has put in to assemble a team that saw 35-match unbeaten streak coming into the World Cup.
The majority of Lionel Scaloni's playing career was spent in Spain, where he played with Deportivo de la Corua on the right side of the field (either in defence or attack). He was nominated to the Argentina World Cup team in 2006, which lost to Germany on penalties in the quarterfinals.
Scaloni was hired as Argentina's manager in 2018, one of the toughest jobs in international football, despite having little experience. As recently as 2016, Scaloni was working as a youth coach at his local amateur club in Mallorca.
Scaloni's appointment was met with a less than favourable response right away, with the legendary Diego Maradona even saying he would "go to the motorcycling World Cup, not the football one," as per the Olympic website.
But only four years later, with one Copa America victory under his belt and a World Cup title in his grasp, Scaloni is no longer the subject of jokes.
One thing that has distinguished Argentina during this World Cup is the sense of togetherness the team has exuded, with players who appear to be just as content off the field as they are when they are winning together.
Scaloni had an impressive 35-match winning streak entering the competition, but after it was abruptly ended in the opening World Cup match against Saudi Arabia, the team rallied to advance to the final in Qatar.
While players like Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez have received a lot of attention, Scaloni deserves a lot of credit for the way the team has been inspired throughout the competition.
Scaloni has acted as the manager for Argentina in 56 matches, winning 41 of them and losing just six. He also guided the team to victory in the 2021 Copa America.