Argentina’s Nicolás Tagliafico: ‘I learned at the last World Cup not to look ahead’

Argentina left-back on big expectations, the team’s unbeaten run and how Copa América success changed Lionel Messi“No one wanted to take charge of the national team,” Nicolás Tagliafico admits. It was summer 2018 and Argentina had just been eliminated early from the World Cup. They had fallen against eventual champions France, true, but they knew it was coming. “We had only just qualified, we had only just got out of the group, the rope was round our necks and although you always have faith as anything can happen, at some point we were going to get beaten,” the full-back says. “It was the end of an era.”“So many things are wrong with Argentina that we don’t know what’s wrong,” Jorge Valdano wrote back then, citing a “crisis of talent”, a “lack of leadership”, “lost patience”: “not even a genius [Messi] can make up for so many failings,” problems of “such magnitude”. When Lionel Scaloni was appointed as interim manager, it was his first job as a head coach and an unenviable one. “He had guts,” Tagliafico says. Yet four years on, Argentina begin another World Cup among the favourites, Copa América winners and unbeaten in 36 games.

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