Sergio Batista's job said in doubt

Updated: July 22, 2011, 4:27 PM ET
Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Sergio Batista seems to be on the way out as Argentina coach following the team's exit in the quarterfinals of the Copa America.

German Lerche, a top-ranking official of the Argentine Football Association, said in an interview Friday that Batista's future was in doubt. He said the situation could be taken up at a meeting Monday of the AFA.

Lerche, who is also president of the Colon club and AFA's technical secretary, called the Copa America a "sporting failure" for Argentina, which is the host for the South American championship which ends Sunday.

"This situation, which smells like a failure, invites us to analyze the subject in depth. And it has to do with the coach continuing or not," Lerche said Friday in an interview with TyC television.

Argentina has not won a major trophy in 18 years and last won a World Cup 25 years ago. The Copa America was seen a perfect chance to break through, playing as the host nation and led by Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino -- an Argentine -- and Alejandro Sabella, former coach of Argentine club Estudiantes, are seen as the favorites. Also being mentioned is former Boca Juniors and Atletico de Madrid coach Carlos Bianchi.

Any switch would be made before Argentina begins play later this year in South American qualifying for the World Cup. Argentina may have a tough time with countries like Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Venezuela all having played well in the Copa America.

Batista took over after Diego Maradona was dropped as coach just weeks after Argentina was defeated 4-0 last year by Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals.

Both were favored by the AFA president Julio Grondona, who now is being blamed for failing to do a serious search for a coach.

Argentina was knocked out of the Copa America quarterfinals last weekend despite fielding a team led by Messi and a cast of some the world's best players including Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano.

Argentina won only one match of four, a 3-0 victory over Costa Rica, which was fielding its second team as a guest entry in the Copa America. Argentina drew 1-1 with Bolivia, 0-0 with Colombia and was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Uruguay 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in extra time.

The sports daily "Ole" on its front page Friday showed a photo of Batista waving as he walked across a football field. The headline said: "They don't support him."

A headline on the inside read: "A coach without support."

Batista, who played on Argentina's 1986 World Cup winning team with Maradona, led Argentina to the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics. Like Maradona, he lacks acumen as a football tactician and has been unable to organize the country's vast array of talent.

Jose Pekerman stepped down after Argentina was beaten in the quarterfinals of the 2006 World. He was followed by Alfio Basile, Maradona and Batista.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press