Javier Mascherano is not sure if he will be in Qatar in November and December this year. The forthcoming FIFA World Cup™ may well be the first such tournament that he watches on television since France 1998. The versatile grafter was a key component of Argentina’s sides at the past four World Cups and, with 20 matches under his belt, he has appeared at the illustrious competition more often than any other Argentinian except Diego Maradona. Indelibly linked to his country’s national team, Mascherano was even present at Korea/Japan 2002, having been part of a group of young players that was invited along by erstwhile coach Marcelo Bielsa to provide opposition to his charges – who failed to advance past the group stage – in training.
Now the Argentina U-20 coach, the San Lorenzo native will likely have a lot on his plate already in November, as he attempts to prepare his team for the South American U-20 Championship 2023, scheduled to take place in Colombia in January.
The competition, which serves as a qualifying tournament for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Indonesia 2023™, will see him enter the public consciousness in Argentina as a coach for the first time, and will allow him to showcase the footballing philosophy he plans to develop during his new career. Mascherano was one of the FIFA Legends who attended the Final Draw for Qatar 2022™ in Doha on 1 April. There is no doubt that, having played alongside Lionel Messi at the last four World Cups and having been a role model for a number of current Argentina stars such as Giovanni Lo Celso, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Acuna and Nicolas Tagliafico, his words carry significant weight. And he decided to share those words with FIFA, expressing his admiration for Lionel Scaloni’s team, declaring that experience has made Messi a better player and that the months leading up to a World Cup are crucial for those involved. Unsurprisingly, the conversation also touched on his fond memories of Maradona.