Argentina have been one of the greatest teams in international football since the creation of the World Cup. This side are widely known for their skillful playing style and dangerous attacking force. Despite this, last taste of World Cup success for this team came in 1986. La Albiceleste will be hoping to put this record right in Russia this year. Argentina successfully qualified for the World Cup after a Lionel Messi hat-trick allowed the side to finish third in their qualification group.
Argentina Squad Outlook: Sergio Romero, Willy Caballero, Franco Armani, Gabriel Mercado, Federico Fazio, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo, Nicolas Taglafico, Javier Mascherano, Marcos Acuna, Cristian Ansaldi, Ever Banega, Lucas Biglia, Angel Di Maria, Giovani Lo Celso, Manuel Lanzini, Cristian Pavon, Maximiliano Meza, Eduardo Salvio, Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Sergio Aguero.
Argentina Squad Talk:
Argentina undoubtedly boast an incredibly talented squad. Its strength lies mainly in a formidable group of attackers. Lionel Messi, arguably the best player in the world, spearheads this group. Messi seems to be in an ideal position here, hoping to reap the rewards of a star-studded supporting cast. This aptly consists of the experienced target-man and goal machine Gonzalo Higuain along with the gifted young up-and-comer Paulo Dybala. The addition of Sergio Aguero only strengthens this group further.
From this lineup of players, Dybala is my one to watch this summer. After moving to the Italian giants Juventus in 2015, the 24 year old has become a familiar face in the starting lineup, scoring 22 goals last season. He also accumulated 5 assists. Dybala will be looking to make a significant impact in his first major international tournament.
The downfall of this squad, however, comes at the other end of the pitch. Goalkeepers are often seen as the backbone of the team; Argentina are short of choices here. Both Sergio Romero and Willy Caballero were bench-warmers for Manchester United and Chelsea respectively. The latter appeared in 3 league games and the former only started, alarmingly, in a single Premier League game. This may become a problem for the South American side- they can only rely on Lionel Messi for so much, and, unfortunately, goalkeeping may be a stretch.
King of the Country
Despite the mass of players to choose from when it comes to Argentina’s greatest player, it will forever be a challenge to find one better than Diego Maradona. Despite being linked with more than his fair share of controversy over the years, including both *that* drugs scandal and *that* World Cup quarter-final goal against England, the magical midfielder was untouchable in his prime.
Who’s the Gaffa
Jorge Sampaoli has been the manager of this side since 2017. He led Spanish side Sevilla to a 4th place finish in La Liga before his appointment. Prior to this, Sampaoli successfully led the Chilean national side to the Copa America trophy, defeating his current side in the final. Sampaoli will be looking for victory in possibly Lionel Messi’s final World Cup in prime physical condition.
Likely finish in the group- 1st. Quite simply, Argentina are leagues ahead of the other teams of Group D. A first-place finish is not a reach for this side. For Argentina to drop a point here would be surprising.
Likely overall finish if out of the group- I can see Argentina making a deep run this year, however their defense may let them down once again. I expect a semi-final exit for Argentina.
Lazy Fan Fact:
The aforementioned Diego Maradona is also the father-in-law to Argentine striker Sergio Aguero, and Lionel Messi is the godfather of Sergio Aguero’s son. This means that Sergio Aguero’s son has Aguero for a father, Messi for a godfather, and Maradona as a grandfather. No pressure, kid.