Sampaoli emerges as contender to replace sacked Bauza

BUENOS AIRES • Two-time World Cup winners Argentina sacked coach Edgardo Bauza on Monday after a string of poor results in South American qualifying left them struggling to reach the 2018 Finals in Russia.

Media reports suggest Sevilla's Argentinian coach Jorge Sampaoli, who has never disguised his ambition to take charge of the national team, will step into the vacancy.

"We've reached an agreement, we've told Bauza he's ceased to be the national team coach," the Argentinian Football Association's (AFA) recently elected president Claudio Tapia told reporters after a meeting at the organisation's Buenos Aires headquarters.

The world No. 2-ranked football nation risks failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1970.

Argentina, whose captain Lionel Messi has been banned for four matches for insulting a match official, are fifth in the South American group with four qualifiers left.

The top four in the 10-nation group go through to the 2018 finals in Russia, while the fifth-placed country qualifies for a play-off against a team from Oceania.

  • 37.5% 

    Gerardo Bauza's win record during his time in charge of the Argentina national team. He won three out of eight qualifying games for the 2018 World Cup, leaving the two-time world champions fifth in the standings.

Bauza, 59, is the shortest-serving Argentina coach since 1974. During his eight months in charge, Argentina won three matches and lost three, with two draws - all 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

If the AFA can successfully prise Sampaoli away from Sevilla at the end of the season, he would have until Aug 31 to prepare for Argentina's next qualifier, a tricky trip to play Uruguay in Montevideo.

Sampaoli quit as Chile coach after lifting the 2015 Copa America but had just taken charge at LaLiga club Sevilla when the Argentina job became vacant last July after Gerardo Martino resigned. The AFA would have to pay a buyout clause to trigger Sampaoli's release from Sevilla.

The new AFA leadership made the decision to dispense with Bauza after Argentina were lucky to beat Chile 1-0 at home with a Messi penalty, then lost 0-2 away to Bolivia at high altitude in La Paz last month.

Argentina, who had Messi suspended before the Bolivia game, could be without their talisman in Uruguay and at home to Peru and Venezuela later this year unless they manage to get the ban reduced on appeal. If the appeal fails, Messi would only come back for the final, potentially decisive qualifier away to Ecuador at high altitude in Quito in October.

Argentina have won only one of eight World Cup 2018 qualifiers without the Barcelona superstar, compared to five out of six won with him on the pitch.

"The national team is playing badly and everyone knows it," Tapia said last week.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2017, with the headline 'Sampaoli emerges as contender to replace sacked Bauza'. Print Edition | Subscribe