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Argentina's Jorge Sampaoli's safe even if team fails in 2018 World Cup group

Argentina Football Association president Claudio Tapia insists Jorge Sampaoli will continue at the helm of the national team even if his country were to be eliminated "in the first round of the World Cup."

Sampaoli, the former Chile coach, took the reins of Argentina last summer after one season at Sevilla and is under contract until 2022.

"I back Sampaoli even if Argentina does not go beyond the first round of the World Cup," Tapia told Radio Mitre. "I already spoke with him. He has a five-year contract and we've thought about what Argentine football was missing and that is a project.

"We are going to the World Cup with a coach that has managed four qualifiers and six friendlies while other national teams arrive [at the World Cup] with 10 or 12 years of work under their belts. Sampaoli had better offers and turned them down to be with us."

Sampaoli was a big hit as the head coach of Chile, guiding the team at the 2014 World Cup and to the Copa America title in 2015, one that was claimed with a victory over Argentina in the final.

Under Sampaoli, Argentina have won five, drawn three and lost two of their 10 games.

The Albiceleste did not book their spot in Russia until their final qualifier, a 3-1 win at Ecuador on Oct. 10, with captain Lionel Messi scoring a hat trick.

Their last defeat, a 6-1 humiliation to Spain in an international friendly in Madrid, set alarm bells ringing in Buenos Aires with Sampaoli admitting his team had much to improve on at the World Cup.

Argentina, who have not won the World Cup since 1986, will play in Group D with Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria.

They have lost three straight major finals -- two in the Copa America and also the 2014 World Cup -- in three years.

Veteran Argentina defender Javier Mascherano, who will retire from the national team after this summer's event, told Depor TV: "Russia will be the last great opportunity for many of this generation.

"We are enthusiastic as we have another opportunity which is rare in life to get second chances. We have played well in the past and have reached finals so we have to use that experience to our advantage at this World Cup. But one has to understand that at times your wishes don't come true."

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.


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