The fan’s sentiment, whether inside a buzzing stadium or out on the streets, with placards and expletives on offer is singularly in unison with Argentina. They all think and want that arguably the finest player in the world should make it count big for Argentina at the FIFA World Cup 2018. In fact, it must be asked- who doesn’t?
For starters, both Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo would want nothing better or as much as desiring the greatest football trophy there is in the world. Also because their’s is a burgeoning collection that lacks the best silverware. The World Cup is what the two giants of the modern sport desperately seek.
Then, even if it means going all out on war here in the tectonic Putin-land, then so be it. Wouldn’t that lift the pedestal of excitement and competition to a soaring level? It may. It would be fine. Perhaps, more would want the fitting saga to transpire in the end.
But that brings us to an important query.
Just how strong do Argentina’s chances look?
On first thoughts, despite there be some deficiencies in the front of further down the grid, the most important man and the soul with magic in possession- Lionel Messi- will be expected to go full throttle. The FIFA World Cup 2018 for arguably, the most famous Argentine on the planet right now, is akin to that Grand Prix battle that is tantamount to- it’s now or never.
But call them what they may be or who they are- Real Madrid fans or loathsome critics- an interesting point of view is that Lionel Messi would not be able to go the full distance. A needless stymie of a view on offer? Most would think that way? Perhaps, makes sense to even shun them aside as narcissists hailing from Portugal. But in the ‘now’ of things, it’s not hard at all to see that the team’s fortunes are so closely tied to the Barcelona Forward than ever before.
But despite the driving force, here are some of the things that are acting puzzles in coach Jorge Sampaoli’s mind:
There’s hardly any doubt about the talent or capabilities of inarguably, two of Argentina’s most striking players- striker Sergio Aguero and midfielder Lucas Bigila. But in a sport that’s so often marked by injuries and suddenness of injuries in the midst of battles, there’s a concern about the twin-turbo engines of Argentina’s flight.
On current form, both Aguero and Bigila have only recently experienced injury concerns. Playing to their full limit- as will be expected, this being FIFA World Cup 2018- the side would have no option but to have some sterling force on the bench redying itself should the worst happen.
But for now, for any game, can Paulo Dybala- be that special force in action that can propel the side so heavily reliant on Argentina to deliver- we will have to wait and watch? Critics submit in earnest that the form he displayed for Juventus may take a while to translate into national performances.
Some other outstanding key players for the side are- River Plate’s Franco Armani and Chelsea’s Wilfredo Cabarello. Armani is yet to play for Argentina, let alone featuring in any major key event such as the FIFA World Cup 2018. What he does have, in fact, is people’s unbridled support. The latter, Cabarello, may not be a starter for Chelsea but has captured the imagination for his quick reflexes. How much of a support can the goal-keeper bring?
Perhaps, it will be unimaginative and unworthy of all fans to ignore that it was Cabarello who saved not one but three penalties to enable his previous club- Manchester City- the previous League cup.
An enormity of goal-keeping talent on offer, also including Nahuel Guzam from Tigres, Mexico would certainly give the coach the problem of plenty. But it won’t be too surprising to note if Cabarello makes the final cut, his skill with the feet also adding a case in point for Argentina.
And in here rests Argentina’s biggest worry.
Are they a unit that’s heavily one-man reliant, vis-a-vis a Germany where the right winger, centre back and striker all contribute to making the play? Can the great presence of Messi thwart off the worry that meatier teams like Germany, England bring to the table?
Perhaps, Football will never rest on conjecture and theories. A game, so often driven by instincts over gut-feel, thrill over supposition- may offer something completely spectacular against our worst fears for a truly talented side.
But if there were a concern that even Messi would himself want to rub aside then it would be their World Cup form. No matter how magnificent or attractive the team appears in the sheer instant of the present, their’s an onerous past that stands the risk of draining the positive ions out.
Much of the present squad that shall field in the FIFA World Cup 2018 carries the disappointment of the previous failures. There are three successive losses in the finals that Argentina would want to move ahead of or simply not reflect too much on. That they lost in 2014, 2015 and, 2016 Copa America finals poses a risk of sabotaging their effort.
Being compared forever to another great of the sport, a timeless icon and his fellow compatriot- Diego Maradona- can never give Messi an easy breathing time. But if there was a chance to draw some inspiration and fill in the only gaping hole in his resume- that of not having won a world cup- then now’s the time.
Messi knows it. Argentina knows it too. And so does the rest of the world for whom Messi means sheer magic on the field and those agile moves mean heart-stopping excitement against which an entire life can be lived.
So how does Argentina’s full squad look like?
Goalkeepers: Wilfredo Caballero (Chelsea), Franco Armani (River Plate), Nahuel Guzman (Tigres de Mexico)
Defenders: Cristian Ansaldi (Torino), Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Javier Mascherano (Hebei China Fortune), Federico Fazio (Roma), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisbon), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax)
Midfielders: Cristian Pavon (Boca Juniors), Maximiliano Meza (Independiente), Angel Di Maria (PSG), Giovani Lo Celso (PSG), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Lucas Biglia (Milan), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica)
Forwards: Paulo Dybala (Juventus) Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)