Doubters missing a trick as 'The Magician' excels for Argentina
Alejandro Sabella's appointment is starting to look like a stroke of genius as they prepare for their first World Cup semi-final since 1990
When Alejandro Sabella was given the task of reviving Argentina's fortunes after a poor 2011 Copa America campaign, not everyone in his homeland was convinced he was the right man.
"I don't know why they chose him," said the country's legendary 1978 World Cup-winning coach Cesar Menotti.
Three years later, and Sabella's appointment is starting to look like a stroke of genius from his bosses at the Argentina FA as they prepare for their first World Cup semi-final since 1990.
Under Sabella - nicknamed El Mago ("The Magician") during his playing days - Argentina have evolved into a side who are again punching their weight.
They may have won all of their matches by just one goal margins but have shown a mental strength that was singularly lacking four years ago under the unpredictable Diego Maradona.
Some have queried if the team relies too much on four-time world footballer of the year Lionel Messi, but if that is true it only goes to prove that Sabella took the right step when he installed Messi as captain.
Unlike some of his predecessors, Sabella has not hesitated to tailor his team to make the most of a player's talents.
The results have been spectacular, with Messi for the first time consistently producing his sparkling Barcelona form in Argentina's famous colours, with four goals alone at the finals.
"He's the water in the desert. He finds solutions when we think there aren't any," Sabella said after the 1-0 win over Belgium in Saturday's quarter-final.
Sabella's rise to the top job in Argentinian football was a long time in the making. He worked as an assistant to Daniel Passarella for several years, but it was not until he was appointed Estudiantes manager in early 2009 that his coaching career took off.
Within months he had guided them to the Copa Libertadores title, and followed that up by winning the 2010 Apertura championship - making him a shoo-in for the Argentina job in 2011.