Project Management Lessons from La Scaloneta

Glorielisa González

Glorielisa González

Founder & Managing Member of GA Consulting

After Argentina became a world champion, and regardless of which team you preferred during the tournament, we can agree on the applicability of project management in the execution of this team. This project started four years ago when Lionel Scaloni was confirmed as the coach of the Argentinian team. A team that had been eliminated in the round of 16 in Russia 2018 and had no certain future. Some of the factors that led to achieving their victory, and worth highlighting, are:


The seventh edition of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) describes some factors that identify high-performance teams, such as shared understanding, shared ownership, trust, collaboration, adaptability, resilience, and empowerment.

Soccer, like other sports such as basketball and baseball, is a sport in which teamwork is essential. Despite the fact that there are always some players whose skills stand out from the rest of the team, teams cannot succeed with a single player.

In the particular case of the Argentinian team, although we can all agree that Lionel Messi’s figure was vital, the group stood out for their teamwork and the absence of egocentrism, which could put in risk the final result.

The PMBOK® Guide explains that the more ownership of the outcomes that project team members feel, the better they are likely to perform. The Guide defined this factor as shared ownership. In the case of the Argentinian team, we could see that attribute in each of the players, and even though, as in projects, some had better days than others, what made the difference was the effort that each of the players made from the beginning of the match until the moment the referee blew the final whistle. Defenders Nicolás Otamendi and Cristian “Cuti” Romero, although they are not the main focus due that they are not the goal scorers, their commitment and participation were vital to Argentina’s victory. elDiarioAR[2] describes Otamendi as the silent hero of the team. Midfielder Rodrigo De Paul did not start the World Cup by playing his best matches, but the coach of the Argentine national team, Lionel Scaloni, knew what this player was capable of. De Paul improved exponentially in each game and ran the ball like no other. Enzo Fernández, who debuted with the team just two (2) months before the World Cup started, scored a goal in the match against Mexico and won the award for the best young player of the World Cup. Julián Álvarez, who started the World Cup as a substitute, scored four goals during the tournament. Ángel Di Maria, although he could not play in all the matches, his participation was stellar when he entered the field. Lautaro Martínez and Gonzalo Montiel consolidated the last penalty to triumph over the Netherlands and France, respectively. Their goalkeeper, Emiliano “El Dibu” Martínez, has been a key figure in Argentina’s victories in the 2021 Copa America and the World Cup.

In soccer, the winner is the one who scores the most goals. A key example of teamwork is the collaboration of players on the field when scoring a goal. The PMBOK® Guide tells us that project teams that collaborate and work with each other rather than work in silos or compete tend to end up with better outcomes. Collaboration on the field was shown in every game, but one of the best examples is Ángel Di Maria’s goal  (click the link to see the video) in the first half of the final match against France. In 10 seconds, the team recovered the ball, five players touched it (6 touches), and they achieved 2-0.

When talking about the teamwork of the Argentina national team, it is essential to remember the coaching team. It comprises assistant coaches, fitness coaches, analysts, doctors, among others. As in projects, for the objective’s success, each one has to empower themselves in their area. An example is analyst Matías Manna, who used the Wyscout tool to refine all the data of opposing teams and players so that the coaching team could analyze it and plan strategically.[3]


The PMBOK® Guide defines resilience as the ability to adapt and respond quickly to unexpected changes. If the initial approach to product design or a prototype is not effective, the project team and the organization need to be able to learn, adapt, and respond quickly.

We saw this needs to be resilient in 2020 when, due to COVID-19, organizations had to respond to a change that was out of their control. The organizations and teams with the most remarkable ability to react quickly to these changes were the ones that survived.

The Argentine national team taught what it means to learn, adapt, and respond quickly. This group did this through the tournament and on the field. After losing 2-1 in their first World Cup match against Saudi Arabia and losing the unbeaten streak that the selection had after 36 games, the team was clear that every game would be a final from that moment on. But this was not the only time that the team led by Lionel Scaloni had to be resilient. Two giant tests of this ability to adapt and respond quickly were in the matches against the Netherlands and in the final against the French team, which was looking for its second consecutive championship. In both games, the Argentine selection had control of the match until almost the end when the other team drew: minute 10 of the second half’s extension against the Netherlands and minute 82 against France. In both matches, many thought that after this blow at this point in the games, the selection could not recover, but they taught us that they were clear about their objective, and as the project management guide says: they learned, adapted, and responded quickly.


The latest edition of the PMBOK® Guide also talks about adaptability and says that Project teams that are able to adapt the way they work to the environment and the situation are more effective. Regarding project management, this tells us that each project is unique; therefore, it is not expected that the same methodology is applied to all projects or that they work in the same way. The most successful teams are those that adapt the strategy based on the particular reality of each project.

In the case of La Scaloneta, the team and its coaching staff surprise everyone with formation changes. Just as in project management, where agile, traditional, or hybrid methodology does not work for 100% of projects, in soccer, it is impossible to expect to face and win all rivals using the same formation. The coaching staff was clear that if they wanted to achieve the goal, they had to study each of their opponents and temper their playing strategy. The team used different formations throughout the tournament, such as 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 5-3-1, and even a 3-5-1. Although they changed the formation in almost every game, their way of playing was always one of imposing their game and adapting to the moments of the match, knowing when to attack and when to defend. This ability to tailor also speaks of the leadership of this team. 


Leadership is defined as the art of motivating a group of people to act toward achieving a common goal.[5] In recent years, we have seen how the ability to lead is becoming increasingly important in project management and the possession of soft skills that characterize a leader. To be a successful project manager, one needs not only the technical knowledge of project management but also humility, empathy, persuasive power, emotional intelligence, communication skills, among other skills and competencies.

After the victory of the Argentine team on December 18th, several articles have been published about the leadership of the coach, Lionel Scaloni, and their captain, Lionel Messi. The Scaloni-Messi duo, each in their role as coach and captain respectively, demonstrated their leadership throughout the tournament.

We can identify many factors that characterize them as leaders, mainly the group focus and not the individual. This trait was evident at the end of each victory when they were asked about their successes in press conferences; each spoke about the group, us, what this group is, and what we are achieving.

Virginia Borrajo’s article Los secretos del liderazgo de Scaloni[6], mentions the ability to make difficult decisions as one factor that identifies Scaloni as a leader. A leader must be able to make difficult decisions in critical moments, and Scaloni demonstrated this skill even before the official tournament began when they were already in Qatar. After the friendly match with the United Arab Emirates, he replaced Nicolás González and Joaquín Correa, who were not 100% physically fit.

Messi, who could often shoot at the goal and consolidate his scoring opportunity, decided to pass the ball to Julián Álvarez, Enzo Fernández, Lautaro Martínez, among other players, so that they had the chance to score and, as a result, boost the team’s confidence and execution. The soccer player born in the city of Rosario earned the love of the entire Argentine people and many others, as evidenced by journalist Sofía Martínez Mateo’s interview in which she thanks Lionel Messi for everything he has done.


Something we may give little importance to but which is essential, just like all technical factors, is enjoying the process. The importance of having a good environment applies not only to project management but to any profession. If we enjoy what we do and have fun, things work out better. If you have had the opportunity to work in groups where the team gets along and has fun while working towards a common goal, versus work groups where the only thing that unites them is that objective. In both situations, the dynamics are very different, and the results reflect the advantages of having a good relationship with your colleagues.

In the case of the Argentine national team, Scaloni always had a clear way how to bring out the best in each player. He made sure to create a group that enjoys playing soccer. This characteristic was demonstrated throughout the World Cup with publications on social media showing affection between them and, in the streaming of ex-national team player Sergio “Kun” Agüero, where he talks to his friend and ex-roommate on the national team Lionel Messi and Papu Gómez, later joined by Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes, and Marcelo “Daddy” D’Andrea. This conversation is an example that this team is a family and that they enjoyed the process in addition to working towards a common goal.

These are some of the factors in which project management is identified in the execution of the Argentine national team. In projects, things happen like on the field, and the results are not always what we expect. Still, applying these factors increases the probability of achieving the objective. For the national team, the aim was to bring the World Cup to Argentina, where more than 45 million stakeholders were waiting for them.

What professional or personal objective are you working towards? How will adaptability, teamwork, resilience, and the other factors described above help you achieve that goal?

[1] (Initial Photo) TODO SEA POR LA SCALONETA: UN GRUPO DE CORDOBESES RECORRERÁ MÁS DE10.000 KILÓMETROS PARA IR AL MUNDIAL. MUNDIALEROS. Todo sea por la Scaloneta: un grupo de cordobeses recorrerá más de 10.000 kilómetros para ir al Mundial – Mundialeros

[2] Otamendi, el héroe silencioso de Argentina en Qatar 2022. Diario AR.

[3] Morini, Diego. Selección argentina en Qatar 2022: los aliados de Lionel Scaloni, la Big Data y el pulso del vestuario. La Nación. Los aliados de Scaloni, de la Big Data a las charlas permanentes con Samuel, Aimar y Ayala – LA NACION

[4] (Group Photo) Mundial de Qatar 2022 EN VIVO: llega la Selección con la Copa a la Argentina. Ámbito. Mundial de Qatar 2022 EN VIVO: llega la Selección con la Copa a la Argentina (

[5] Ward, Susan. What is Leadership. The Balance.

[6] Borrajo, Virginia. Los secretos del liderazgo de Scaloni. La Capital. 6 de enero del 2023.