The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Extension surprises Bielsa
- Next four years more difficult than the previous four, feels Argentine coach

Buenos Aires: Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa was surprised to be given another chance after his team’s first-round elimination at this year’s World Cup, he said Thursday in his first interview since the tournament.

“I was surprised when they offered me the chance to carry on because it is not often one can continue after a failure,” said Bielsa, whose team started the finals in South Korea and Japan as favourites but failed to get beyond the first hurdle.

The reclusive coach, who isolated himself on a farm deep in the province of Santa Fe after returning home, has been given a new contract until the end of the 2006 World Cup qualifiers in what has been dubbed ‘The Revenge’ by local media.

The contract will be extended to the tournament in Germany if, as expected, Argentina reach the finals again.

Bielsa, who has agreed to take a large pay cut, is the first Argentina coach to have his contract renewed after a World Cup without having won the tournament.

Instead of being judged on three matches, he has instead been rewarded for his team’s performances in the previous four years, during which they sailed through the South American qualifying competition, won friendlies away to Italy and Germany and were acclaimed as the best in the world.

“I have the strength, the will and the aptitude to face this new period in the same way that I did in the previous period,” he said at a news conference lasting more than three hours. “This is a possibility for us to vindicate with our results what we tried in the previous four years but which did not crystallise in the World Cup.”

Bielsa said he accepted full responsibility for Argentina’s World Cup debacle and added that the next four years would be more difficult than the previous four.

Bielsa only got the chance to carry on after Jose Pekerman, the Argentina Football Association’s (AFA) other candidate, said he did not want the job and also stepped down from his post as coach of the under-20 team.

“The negotiations got going when Pekerman told me he had decided not to continue. I asked if he wanted me to accompany him in his decision and he said no,” Bielsa said.

Bielsa denied that the AFA had ordered him to name locally-based players in Argentina’s upcoming friendlies, which begin with a trip to Japan on November 20.

“Nobody can establish by contract who should play for the national team,” he said. “It doesn’t appear to me that there is a clause in this respect.”

The conference was opened by AFA president Julio Grondona.

“This is the best for the national team,” said Grondona, who has been criticised for not considering candidates such as former Boca Juniors coach Carlos Bianchi.

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