A cycle has finally come to an end and a new chapter is being written in regards to the Argentina National Team.
For the better part of a decade, when one thought about the Albiceleste, the first words which would come to mind would be Lionel MESSI. Whether that’s a good thing or not, that is slowly changing. The Argentina team has always been more than just Lionel MESSI. The same way it was more than just Gabriel BATISTUTA, Diego MARADONA or Mario KEMPES. However, all eyes were on the little number 10 and now, that is no longer the case.
This new chapter which is about to be written should have started after the 2014 FIFA World Cup final. While new players were introduced into the team (Roberto PEREYRA, Gabriel MERCADO and others), when it came to the subsequent two Copa’s America and the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the same core from four years earlier remained. Lionel MESSI, Sergio AGUERO, Javier MASCHERANO, Gonzalo HIGUAIN, Marcos ROJO, Lucas BIGLIA and even Enzo PEREZ. All that is changing.
Despite what many think, there is talent beyond that generation of players. And more than talent, there is leadership. German PEZZELLA and Mauro ICARDI are both captain’s for their clubs while Nicolas TAGLIAFICO wore the armband for Independiente when they lifted the 2017 Copa Sudamericana. Throw in an experienced Sergio ROMERO who has been an undisputed starter for close to 10 years with Argentina and there’s no lack of captain material.
In the goalkeeping department, Geronimo RULLI who has been touted as the future number 1 for some time has received another opportunity in the team. He did himself no favors by not having the best of seasons last time with Real Sociedad. This upcoming campaign will be a big one for the former Estudiantes shot stopper as he can permanently play himself into the Argentina squad. Franco ARMANI who eventually became the starting goalkeeper at the World Cup finds himself in the team and could become the third choice goalkeeper should ROMERO and RULLI be the first two choices.
In the back, we have three new faces. Walter KANNEMANN, Alan FRANCO and Leonel DI PLACIDO. KANNEMANN has been fantastic for club side Gremio and could become a pillar in the heart of the Argentina back line. After being left out of the World Cup squad, Fabricio BUSTOS finds himself back in contention for the right back position.
No Javier MASCHERANO, Lucas BIGLIA, Enzo PEREZ or Ever BANEGA in midfield. In come Matias VARGAS, Franco CERVI, Leandro PAREDES, Santiago ASCACIBAR, Rodrigo BATTAGLIA, Exequiel PALACIOS and Gonzalo MARTINEZ. In short, lots of new and exciting players. VARGAS has been playing very well for Velez and it will be very interesting to see how ASCACIBAR performs if given the chance.
With no Lionel MESSI in the squad, the creativity on the team will be shared. VARGAS, CERVI, PAREDES and LO CELSO just to name a few are all exciting young players who can find themselves being in the Argentina team for a few years.
The attack is arguably better than what Argentina took to the World Cup. Angel CORREA has improved under Diego SIMEONE, Cristian PAVON has World Cup experience under his belt and Gio SIMEONE can add a lot to the attack. You also have the Inter duo of Lautaro MARTINEZ and Mauro ICARDI who can both score goals for fun. Paulo DYBALA criminally barely got any minutes at the World Cup but can and hopefully will play a massive part for the next few years for Argentina. He can create, dribble, score and play in many positions.
There’s a solid base of players available for the coach (Lionel SCALONI or whoever gets selected to take over) to build off of moving forward. The road to the 2019 Copa America begins now and for the first time in years, every position in the team is up for grabs.