Sports

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said his players need to maintain their high competitive level after beating France on penalties to win the country’s third World Cup in Qatar last year.

Ahead of Thursday’s friendly against Panama, Scaloni spoke about the squad that will feature captain Lionel Messi and the rest of the players who were crowned champions on Dec. 18, and said his team was about to start a new process.

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“We are world champions, but that doesn’t mean we have the right for more, just because we win we can’t do whatever we want. That’s what they [the players] have to understand,” Scaloni told a news conference.

The coach said his main objective at this stage, after winning the Copa America, “Finalissima” against Italy and World Cup, is for the players to understand that they must remain competitive.

“The message is that a new process is beginning: the pitch is what rules. From there on those who are world champions have no advantage, we will have to keep working,” he said.

“The Argentina shirt doesn’t allow you not to give your best, that’s clear to us. Afterwards, it’s good to celebrate, but we have to do our job on the pitch.”

Regarding the lineup for Thursday’s game, Scaloni said that those players who took the field in the World Cup final will start. “I’d like for people to watch their players,” he added.

Injured Manchester United winger Alejandro Garnacho and Sevilla forward Alejandro “Papu” Gomez, who was unable to travel to Argentina on the instructions of the Spanish club, are the two notable absentees from the squad due to injury.

Meanwhile, the 44-year-old Scaloni, named FIFA men’s coach of the year in February, said the debate over whether he manages the best Argentina team in history is pointless.

“We all play for Argentina, we are world champions, who cares who is the best or the worst,” Scaloni added.

Argentina also won the World Cup in 1978 on home soil and in 1986 in Mexico led by captain Diego Maradona.

The first match for the “Scaloneta” team since the World Cup triumph will be played in a party atmosphere after celebrations with the players planned for last year could not take place as millions of fans congregated in downtown Buenos Aires.

The crowd congestion led to the squad abandoning their open-top bus parade and flying over the crowd by helicopter.

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