SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) -- Former Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa returned from nearly three years on the sidelines when he was put in charge of Chile's troubled national team on Friday.
Bielsa was in charge of Argentina at the 2002 World Cup.
The famously introverted, enigmatic coach known as El Loco (The Madman) was given the challenge of trying to take Chile, riddled by disciplinary problems, to their first World Cup since 1998 in three year's time.
"We've decided that Marcela Bielsa will be the coach of our team during the qualifiers for the World Cup in South Africa," said Harold Mayne-Nicholls, president of the Chilean Football Association (ANFP).
Bielsa's first competitive match in charge will be against his own country when Chile kick off the South American World Cup qualifiers on October13 or 14 in Buenos Aires.
He has been out of the game since surprisingly resigning as Argentina coach in September 2004, midway through the qualifying campaign for the 2006 World Cup.
Bielsa has rarely been seen in public since, having largely confined himself to his farm on the outskirts of Rosario, north of Buenos Aires.
He takes over from Nelson Acosta, who resigned days after Chile were thrashed 6-1 by Brazil in their Copa America quarter-final in Venezuela last month.
Chile's limp display in that match came two days after reports of indiscipline at the team hotel in Puerto Ordaz.
Shortly after the team returned home, the ANFP announced that six players, including captain Jorge Valdivia, had been suspended for 20 international matches each.
As a result, Bielsa will also be deprived of full backs Alvaro Ormeno and Rodrigo Tello, defenders Jorge Vargas and Pablo Contreras and striker Reinaldo Navia.
"His contract begins as from today, it has been signed in Argentina," said Mayne-Nicholls.
"It will continue until the end of the World Cup in South Africa or, if we don't manage to qualify, until the end of the World Cup qualifiers."
Bielsa previously coached Newell's Old Boys and Velez Sarsfield in his homeland, leading the former to the South American Libertadores Cup final in 1992, Atlas and America in Mexico and Espanyol in Spain for a brief period.
He took the Argentina job in 1998 and was in charge at the 2002 World Cup when, having arrived as favorites to win the title, his team crashed out in the first round.
Surprisingly, he kept his job despite that failure.
Bielsa rebuilt the team and took Argentina to the 2004 Copa America final, where they lost on penalties to Brazil in the final, and won the Olympic Gold medal with the under-23 side at the Athens Games shortly afterwards. (Writing by Brian Homewood in Rio de Janeiro) E-mail to a friend
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