Scaloni angered by ‘madness’ of Argentina’s World Cup schedule

Manager bemoans two-day rest period between team’s final group game and last-16 clash with Australia

Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni has labelled it “madness” that only two rest days separate his side’s final World Cup group match and their last-16 game against Australia.

The South American champions booked their place in the knockout stages on Wednesday with a 2-0 victory against Poland at the 974 Stadium – a result that ensured they progressed as Group C winners.

Argentina now face Australia, runners-up in Group D, on Saturday at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan.

“I think it’s absolute madness to play in nearly two days and a bit when we are top of the group. I can’t understand it,” Scaloni said immediately after the Poland win.

“What time is it? Nearly one o’clock in the morning… Thursday, the next day is for preparation and then we play. Those aren’t good conditions. But it’s the same for everyone. We’re first in the group. We could have had more rest.”

Argentina, two-time world champions, have done well to respond from their shock opening-day defeat to Saudi Arabia. Having been beaten 2-1 by the Gulf nation in one of the greatest upsets in tournament history, they saw off Mexico and Poland, both by a 2-0 scoreline.

However, Scaloni warned his side to be wary of Australia, who proved their mettle in coming back from a heavy defeat to France in their opener by registering hard-fought victories against Tunisia and Denmark. Graham Arnold’s men took on Denmark a few hours earlier than Argentina, winning 1-0, to advance to the knockouts.

Scaloni said: “Our fans should enjoy this. We are happy today, but we don’t want to be euphoric. All the games are hard. We saw that with Saudi Arabia. Anyone who thinks the match against Australia will be easy is wrong.

“We’re not favourites. If you think that just because we won today, we are going to become World Cup winners, you’re wrong.”

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