Argentina. A team of nearly. Nearly reaching international glory but never quite achieving it. In recent efforts in international tournaments, Argentina have lost narrowly, thrice in three finals, twice in consecutive Copa Americas (2015 and 2016) and most notably at the World Cup in 2014. A stellar attacking side, spearheaded by one of the best players the world has ever seen in Lionel Messi, will be hungry, and no team will want to win more than Argentina to make up for the recent hurt.
If the recent past is anything to go from, one could argue that Messi and co. have ‘never done it’ on an international stage, with no trophies to show for their endeavours. Yet one can’t deny the sheer determination and class the side have shown, even in the midst of falling short time and time again. The turbulent times even led to Messi, the skipper, stepping out of the squad feeling he could give no more. But, he knew the team needed him, as a leader and stand out player. The man who could carry the team forward, he returned. They needed him as well, as without Messi Argentina struggled hugely, they’re a side who are heavily dependent on their captain.
In qualifying, it was not an easy ride for La Albiceleste. They only just made it through the South American group in third place, with seven wins, seven draws and four losses. Colombia, Chile and Peru were hot on their heels. The success was secured by an outstanding hat trick by Messi to give Argentina a 3-1 away win in Ecuador.
|Argentina team, qualifying for Russia 2018. (Image from FIFA World Cup Times)
The current squad as selected by boss Jorge Sampaoli, looks in decent nick. With Romero ruled out wit a knee injury, Caballero and Guzman in goal are experienced keepers, with the likes of Otamendi, Rojo and Fazio to shore things up in defence. An experienced and balanced midfield in Mascherano, their most capped player, Biglia, Banega and Di María. Lanzini suffered a knee ligament injury in the run up to this tournament, which is a real shame for a youngster of his promise and skill, he’ll be replaced by Enzo Perez of River Plate. But now onto the elephant in the room here, a lethal attack in the form of Messi, Dybala, Higuain and Agüero, with over 100 goals in all comps between them this season.
The boys in white and blue go into Group D, alongside Croatia, Nigeria and Iceland, teams who can pack an unexpected punch. Despite this, Argentina are too good and should really be topping this group with no qualms.
Champions. If they make it to the finals, some part of me is saying that they can go all the way and win it. The commitment, hunger and passion of this side is unrivalled, not to mention the lethal quality in gameplay and big games. For Messi at least, I want them to win it. So I’m going to be bold and back them to go all the way this time, fighting with a vengeance from the recent past, in the hope of adding two their two previous World Cup triumphs of 1978 and 1986.
Overall, I’m looking so so forward to watching this side perform in this competition, I beg they don’t let me down.