Argentine manager struggles: Five in Russia but none win first World Cup match
Argentina arrived in Russia with a World Cup record already under their belt. With five coaches, the nation has the greatest number of managers at the 2018 World Cup, matching the record that Brazil held in Germany 2006.
Jorge Sampaoli (Argentina), Jose Pekerman (Colombia), Ricardo Gareca (Peru), Hector Cuper (Egypt) and Juan Pizzi (Saudi Arabia) emulated the feat of their Brazilian counterparts 12 years ago when Carlos Alberto Parreira (Brazil), Luiz Felipe Scolari (Portugal), Zico (Japan), Alexander Guimaraes (Costa Rica) and Marcos Paqueta (Saudi Arabia) sat on their respective benches.
This number says a lot about the respect Argentine coaches enjoy abroad but, now every team have played their first match, there's something notable: none of the Argentines were able to win their opening match in this competition.
Sampaoli's case -- who together with Pekerman is the only one who has already participated in a World Cup (as Chile's head coach in 2014) -- must be the most striking one. Argentina are a contender to lift the trophy but despite having Lionel Messi and many other stars, Sampaoli wasn't able to defeat Iceland in their World Cup debut and drew 1-1 after a poor performance.
The next games won't be easy and Croatia will be an important obstacle. But, in comparison to his colleagues, Sampaoli at least got a point.
Pekerman had a great 2014 World Cup in Brazil, making it to the quarterfinals with Colombia before going out to the home team. However, the opening match against Japan, in theory their weakest rival in the group, ended up in defeat. After having Carlos Sanchez red-carded very early in the game and finding themselves 1-0 down, Colombia struggled to find their game and fell to a 2-1 defeat that puts them in a difficult position.
Gareca, coaching Peru, came to Russia with less expectations. He helped Peru qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, so their objective in Russia is less ambitious. Though they put on a good show in their debut against Denmark, they were unlucky to miss a penalty and ended up losing 1-0.
Egypt made things difficult for Uruguay under Cuper. Even without Salah, they almost walked away with a point having frustrated both Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, but a last-minute header by Jose Gimenez left them empty-handed. Things did not improve in their second encounter: a 3-1 defeat against hosts Russia that leaves Egypt on the brink of elimination.
And the worst drubbing handed out to any of the five Argentine coaches was Russia's 5-0 over Pizzi and Saudi Arabia. Pizzi had, in fact, replaced fellow countryman Edgardo Bauza, who managed Saudi Arabia throughout the last part of their World Cup qualifying campaign. But an early exit looks likely now.
There is still a long road until the end of group play, but Argentine coaches need to improve quickly if they want to extend their Russian stay.