Argentina Hit The Panic Button, Fire Manager Edgardo Bauza
Like Tata Martino before him, Edgardo Bauza has been dismissed of his role as manager of Argentina’s national team after failing to get the most out of Lionel Messi’s supporting cast. The next manager for Argentina will be Messi's 8th since joining the Albiceleste.
— The18 (@the18com) April 11, 2017
With over four months to go until CONMEBOL qualifying resumes in late August, the Argentina Football Association has moved quickly to give someone else a chance to figure out how to make Argentina work without Messi, who still has three games of his international suspension to serve.
Martino resigned shortly after losing to Chile in the Copa America Centenario Final, but he also left the national team with only 11 points from their opening six matches of 2018 World Cup qualifying. They recorded two wins from two matches with Messi but only one win in four without him.
Bauza was appointed manager after his remarkable spells as club coach with Ecuador’s LDU Quito and Argentina’s San Lorenzo. Before even playing a match, Bauza made his greatest contribution to the national team by coaxing Messi out of his premature international retirement.
Messi returned, scored and Argentina defeated Uruguay 1-0 in Bauza’s first match in charge — qualification for the 2018 World Cup looked assured. But a groin injury ruled Messi out of their next qualifier, and Argentina could only salvage a 2-2 draw against lowly Venezuela.
Groin problems also ruled him out of Argentina’s October qualifiers against Peru and Paraguay. Once again, they were held to a draw by Peru but were disastrously defeated by Paraguay in Cordoba.
The warning signs had been there throughout qualifying, but now it was abundantly clear: this Argentina side simply could not function without Messi.
Messi returned for the November qualifiers, but a reborn Brazilian side defeated them 3-0 in Belo Horizonte. Argentina responded with perhaps their best win under Bauza, Messi opening the scoring in a 3-0 victory over Colombia.
A narrow victory over Chile thanks to a Messi penalty was soured by Messi being handed a four-match ban for verbally abusing the officials after the final whistle. Bauza was given one last chance to find a winning formula without Messi, but Bolivia crushed Argentina in La Paz, leaving Argentina in the precarious position of fifth in the table.
Finishing fifth amounts to qualifying for a playoff against OFC’s representative (likely New Zealand), but even that spot is no longer guaranteed with Messi set to miss three more games.
The first of those matches is as difficult as they come: away to Uruguay. The second is simply a must-win at home against the worst team in CONMEBOL, Venezuela. Messi will then see out his suspension in Argentina’s penultimate game, a home match against a side that’s threatening for their place at the 2018 World Cup, Peru.
It remains to be seen, but Messi could return to the Argentina fold in what would amount to a do or die match against the team currently in sixth in the table, Ecuador.
No manager has been able to make Argentina look like a World Cup side without Messi, and whoever is appointed is charged with accomplishing that task immediately.
The fan favorite is Sevilla manager and Argentine Jorge Sampaoli, who led Chile to the 2015 Copa America. River Plate manager Marcelo Gallardo is also rumored to be a strong candidate. There is, of course, the extremely unlikely appointment of Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone, but he remains committed to Atletico.