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Alejandro Sabella decides to quit

Buenos Aires: Alejandro Sabella, who steered Argentina to the World Cup final in Brazil, has decided to quit as national team coach, Argentine media reported on Tuesday. The reports said the 59-year-old Sabella, whose side lost the Maracana final to Germany 1-0 after extra time, had told Argentine FA president Julio Grondona that he was standing down.

Argentina begin preparations for their next major tournament, the 2015 Copa America in Chile, with a friendly against Germany in Duesseldorf on September 3.

Sabella’s agent Eugenio Lopez said two days before the World Cup final that the coach was unlikely to carry on and Sabella himself said on his return to Buenos Aires with the team that he was unsure he had the energy to give his best any longer.

“You have to fill the energy tank which sometimes gets empty. I have to think if I’m in condition to give 100 percent,” Sabella told reporters two weeks ago.

Sabella, who took charge in August 2011, led Argentina to first place in the World Cup qualifiers with a fine attack led by Lionel Messi that top-scored with 35 goals in 16 matches.

His side won their three group matches in Brazil thanks mainly to four goals from Messi and Argentina’s progress through the knock-out rounds to their first World Cup final for 24 years was marked more by sound tactics and a firm defence. The buzz is Sabella on the radar of Brazilian club Gremio.

Sabella played for the Gremio in 1986 and recently praised his former coach Valdir Espinosa, whom he worked with at Gremio, saying that he was responsible for teaching him how to make the most of the space available on a football pitch.

The AFA will have to name a new coach quickly given September’s game in Germany and further friendlies with Brazil in China and against Hong Kong on a tour of Asia in October.

Media reports put Jose Pekerman, who steered Colombia to the quarter-finals in Brazil and was in charge of Argentina at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, among the favourites to succeed Sabella.

Pekerman has yet to say whether he will continue in charge of Colombia. Gerardo Martino, who coached Barcelona last season and has therefore worked closely with Messi and Argentina’s midfield general Javier Mascherano, is also among the front runners. He has World Cup experience as Paraguay coach in South Africa in 2010.