BUENOS AIRES • Lionel Messi's faltering Argentina team will reach the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, sacked coach Edgardo Bauza said on Tuesday.
The Argentine Football Association (AFA), under newly elected president Claudio Tapia, sacked Bauza on Monday after he picked up only 11 points in his eight World Cup qualifiers in charge.
"We got some results that were good and others not so and Argentina are now in a position that I think they will qualify for the World Cup," Bauza told a news conference. "There are four big matches to go," the 59-year-old added at his official exit, referring to the remaining qualifiers later this year.
He leaves the world's No. 2-ranked side in fifth place - good enough for only a two-leg play-off against a team from Oceania at the end of the campaign.
Tapia hopes to secure the services of Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli, who made a name at international level by steering Chile to their first Copa America title in 2015 when they beat Argentina in the final.
Tapia will travel to Spain this week to meet Sampaoli, Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone and possibly other candidates, reported Argentina sports daily Ole.
Simeone, 46, has always expressed interest in coaching the national team, but suggested it would be later in his career. His contract with Atletico runs until next year.
Sampaoli, who regretted his decision to turn down the opportunity to replace Gerardo Martino last year, appears to be the most readily available. Messi has also given his blessing to the 57-year-old - a must to get the top job.
A student of legendary Argentinian manager Marcelo Bielsa, Sampaoli has an aggressive attacking style that would represent a clean break with the timid play of Bauza's short reign.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE