Argentina’s men’s national football team head coach Lionel Scaloni gave a press conference ahead of the start of the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers that kickoff this Thursday with the Albiceleste facing Ecuador at home. The team will play its second match away against Bolivia on September 12.
In his presentation on Wednesday, the World Cup-winning coach focused on Argentina’s title defense, and was eager to keep everyone grounded regarding the difficulty of the task ahead.
“What happened is now over. It was beautiful, but now we have to keep going,” said Scaloni. “The DNA of Argentine players is to always compete and win. It will be harder now, but this jersey, this badge and this country demand that you continually improve.”
“It will be hard to detach [ourselves] from the euphoria, from the people’s love for their heroes. We try to do that because we’re playing an important game. But it’s always good to see the fans happy, to see the team shows something.”
“We’re better off than when we started [leading the national team]. We know what we want and who are the players we need to do it. Now we have a foundation we didn’t have before. But that doesn’t mean things should be taken for granted. The qualifiers are hard, we will go through hard times and that’s when the team has to be closer than ever.”
Asked about the new team call up — which includes 8 players who weren’t at Qatar 2022 —, Scaloni focused on the importance of intra-squad competition.
“We decide the list thinking about the best possible team. If it includes World Cup winners, that’s good, but if it doesn’t, it will be with those players that want to win a spot on the team. We’ll play with the best we have.”
“Messi arrived and started practicing. I think he’s happy, he’s found a place where he’s loved. He’s happy on any football pitch.” Asked about the amount of minutes La Pulga has played since joining Inter Miami, Scaloni insisted that, barring any physical issues, he will play. “I see no sense in resting him if he’s healthy,” said the coach.
One of the biggest topics for the Albiceleste is whether Messi will play in the 2026 World Cup or not, but Scaloni dodged the topic. “I don’t know if I’ll be there, let alone Messi,” he said. “We don’t talk about that, football is very changing. We’re not even in yet and I don’t think it’s appropriate to discuss it.”
“We’d all love him to be there, but there’s still a lot left to be said and done.”
The Argentine coach also said it’s hard to draw many parallels between the team’s upcoming challenge and the path it took to make it to Qatar 2022, with the pandemic and the absence of fans in the stadiums. He also insisted that the new 48-team World Cup format – granting six and a half spots to Conmebol teams – doesn’t make things any easier.
“Teams may start taking on Argentina in a different way. We always want to go out, play our game and be protagonists, world champions or not. That’s what history commands of us and it won’t change.”
“Ecuador is a very good team, with a coach who knows his game plan and has good players. They know each other as a group and played a great World Cup. They can put us in trouble,” said the Argentina coach, who also insisted there are no magic formulas on how to play Bolivia at an altitude of 3,577 meters a.s.l., and that his focus is solely on Thursday’s game.
The coach was also asked how he thought Argentina’s World Cup win was viewed among the countries in the region, in light of the fact that the tickets for the game against Bolivia in La Paz sold out weeks before the match.
“I’d like to think of it as a win for South American football,” said Scaloni. “Argentina has always been admired in the world. We’ve shown that you can win doing things our way, that South American football is interesting and if that makes others believe [in themselves], that’s good. But when we play away, people will always want their home squad to win.”