BUENOS AIRES • New Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli said his greatest challenge was to get the best out of Lionel Messi and reach next year's World Cup Finals in Russia as he was officially unveiled on Thursday with a contract through to the 2022 tournament in Qatar.
Sampaoli, identified as Argentina's choice in April but tied to Spanish club Sevilla until the end of the LaLiga season 11 days ago, said his first contact with captain Messi was positive.
"I spoke with Leo yesterday and we are both excited about this project. It's a boost for us to see how excited he is with this new stage (for Argentina)," Sampaoli said.
The 57-year-old, who is fulfilling a long-time dream of coaching his country's national team, also said he had signed a deal with the Argentinian FA until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
"The liaison will go through to the 2022 World Cup. Let's hope we can generate something important for Argentinian football," said Sampaoli, who left for Australia with his squad for the start of a two-match friendly tour yesterday.
Argentina will take on rivals Brazil in Melbourne next Friday before facing Singapore at the National Stadium on June 13.
I spoke with Leo yesterday and we are both excited about this project. It's a boost for us to see how excited he is with this new stage (for Argentina).
JORGE SAMPAOLI, Argentina coach, encouraged by the prospect of working with his captain Messi.
The Argentinians' hopes of reaching the World Cup Finals next year are on a knife edge in the 10-nation South American group in which the top four qualify for Russia.
They are fifth in the qualifying group, which would put them in an intercontinental play-off against a team from Oceania.
There are four rounds of matches to go with Argentina on 22 points from 14 matches, behind already-qualified leaders Brazil (33), Colombia (24), Uruguay and Chile (both 23).
Argentina face Uruguay in Montevideo on Aug 31.
"Playing a World Cup is complicated," said Sampaoli. "It's a tournament that has to find you consolidated.
"I dream of building a strong squad."
• Tickets for Singapore v Argentina are priced from $40 to $188 each, with children's and senior citizens' tickets available at $25 each. More details at www.sportshubtix.sg