Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni has named his 26-man squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. As expected, the eyes of the world will be on their captain Lionel Messi. At 35 years old, this is likely his last chance to add the glitter of the World Cup to his impressive individual and team honors. Now at his fifth world cup, Messi enjoys the company of a team that is a hot favorite for the title. The favorite tag is backed by an impressive 35-game unbeaten streak from 2019 and polished up by a Copa America triumph in 2021. But it has not been easy sailing for the Albiceleste.
The team reached four Copa America finals between 2004 and 2016 and the World Cup final in 2014 and lost all of them. Messi has endured much criticism for his inability to lead Argentina to the trophy. Like his predecessor Maradona, high expectations lie on this footballing spectacle to lift this most coveted trophy. The 2021 Copa triumph was a welcome relief but many believe he can do one better and clinch world glory. Seen by many as the best football player in history, winning the world cup will open doors to the Pantheon of football gods.
Messi has been in red-hot form for PSG season racking up 28 goal contributions in 19 games. Surely, this is the time for Messi and Argentina, if not now, when? He’s already stated in numerous interviews that this will be his last World Cup. One last dance for the best player to ever paint this great gallery of the game, to go on and put a stamp on his venerable title, GOAT.
Giovani lo Celso is the notable omission from the squad. The midfielder has been integral in the Argentina cog and misses out due to a hamstring injury. Lo Celso and Rodrigo De Paul have formed a successful double pivot for Argentina in midfield making his absence disruptive to how Argentina sets up.
Scaloni had no place for Atletico Madrid Angel correa and Manchester United’s rising star, Alejandro Garnacho. Argentina’s plethora of attackers has squeezed out Correa from a spot in Qatar and the Atleti man, now 27, will be disappointed after missing out in 2018. Napoli’s Giovanne Simeone is enjoying a stellar season but unfortunately misses out on the squad.
Argentina’s line-up options
The big names are included in the list although Roma’s Paulo Dybala and Juventus’ Angel Di Maria have injury concerns. Di maria is integral to the team given the versatility, experience, and width he offers on the left flank. Inter’s Lautaro Martinez is expected to fill up the No. 9 spot with La Pulga occupying the right-wing of attack. Martinez offers a great link-up play and is deadly in front of goal. Messi has a free role and frequently drifts inwards leaving the right back to provide width.
In midfield, Lo Celso’s absence means Rodrigo de Paul will settle for either Enzo Fernandez or Alexis Mac Allister as a partner in the double pivot. Leandro Paredes, on loan at Juventus from PSG, will be a mainstay in the midfield. The center-back pairing of Nicholas Otamendi and Christian Romero will be Scaloni’s go-to option. However, Manchester United’s Lautaro Martinez has been faultless this season and could stake his claim to one of the spots.
Finally safe in goal
Argentina has struggled in goal often relying on unconvincing performers. Nowhere is this more apparent than in their calamitous 2018 world cup with Willy Caballero pulling off a few howlers. However, Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez has risen from obscurity to provide a safe pair of hands for the Albiceleste, especially in their Copa America triumph of 2021.
Potential formation and setup
Argentina is built around Messi. He provides the beginning, link-ups, and often the final touch of many attacks. This time he is surrounded by a well-oiled machine that presses high and places demands of quality and athleticism on the players. Scaloni prefers a 4-3-3 which will likely feature Martinez; Molina, Otamendi, Romero, Tagliafico; Paredes, De Paul, Rodriguez; Di Maria, Messi, and Martinez.
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Full 26-man squad
Goalkeepers: Emi Martinez (Aston Villa), Franco Armani (River Plate), Geronimo Rulli (Villarreal).
Defenders: Marcos Acuna (Sevilla), Juan Foyth (Villarreal), Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United), Nicolas Tagliafico (Lyon), Cristian Romero (Tottenham), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), Nahuel Molina (Atletico Madrid), Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla), German Pezzella (Real Betis).
Midfielders: Angel Di Maria (Juventus), Leandro Paredes (Juventus), Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton), Enzo Fernandez (Benfica), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis).
Forwards: Julian Alvarez (Manchester City), Joaquin Correa (Inter Milan), Paulo Dybala (Roma), Angel Di Maria (Juventus), Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain)