SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli was delighted to start his tenure with a win against bitter rivals Brazil last week and will now look to try out new attacking formations in Tuesday’s friendly against Singapore.
The South Americans agreed to play the tiny Asian nation as part of the host football association’s 125th anniversary celebrations and Sampaoli is refusing to underestimate his opponents despite the huge gulf in class between the sides.
“We expect to face a team that will relish the chance of taking on and trying to beat Argentina,” Sampaoli told reporters after taking team training at the Singapore National Stadium on Monday.
Argentina are second in the FIFA rankings, 155 places above Singapore, and Sampaoli is looking forward to taking the next step in his coaching journey after enjoying a debut 1-0 win over Brazil in a Melbourne friendly on Friday.
“The team is doing well after the match against Brazil and we are expecting a difficult game against Singapore,” the 57-year-old added.
“We have started our journey together already and we are looking forward to seeing it continue, starting with the game tomorrow.”
Despite an abundance of attacking options available to Argentina, the former Chile coach will need to solve the side’s profligacy in a World Cup qualifying campaign that has seen them score just 15 goals in 14 matches.
“It’s not really right for me to comment on the previous coaches of the national team in that regard but the process I am working on is to ensure the players I select are the best ones for the national team,” he said.
Local fans were hugely disappointed to discover that two of the side’s more recognisable players, Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain, did not make the trip to Singapore with Sampaoli saying they both deserved a rest.
“They have had long seasons and played a lot of games so we felt it was best to let them go for this game as it would have been risking injury to make them play tomorrow,” he added.
”But we have a variety of attackers and that means we can experiment against Singapore. We have many offensive players and I want to know how well they can also play defensively.
“It’s important to know how enthusiastic they are at trying to win the ball back when we lose possession. It’s all about the development of our ideas for every position in the future.”
Sampaoli will also be under pressure to get Argentina’s World Cup campaign back on track in a vital trip to Uruguay on Aug. 31 with his side one point outside the top-four automatic qualifying spots with four matches remaining.
Editing by Clare Fallon