Outside of a couple of individual performances, there aren’t too many positives to talk about for Argentina. Jorge SAMPAOLI’s team has shown nothing to provide confidence going forward, and his player selections were hit-or-miss in this round of friendlies. Let’s see how his squad selections fared against Italy and Spain.
Willy CABALLERO, GK
CABALLERO was arguably the man of the match against Italy, making various acrobatic stops in order to keep a clean sheet. His great work was relatively undone against Spain, when he came on as an injury substitute and proceeded to give up five goals, though a few of them weren’t really his fault.
Sergio ROMERO, GK
Was subbed off due to injury after 22 minutes against Spain, following a collision with Diego Costa on a save attempt. Hopefully he’s okay, because Argentina will need him to come up big at the World Cup with the defense looking all out of sorts.
Nicolas TAGLIAFICO, LB
In addition to being an absolute tank in defense, TAGLIAFICO consistently got forward dangerously and helped in attack, either with crosses or overlapping runs. Argentina has found their left back for the next five-plus years.
Nicolas OTAMENDI, CB
The only Argentina player who actually seemed to care when he was on the field, Argentina would’ve given up 15 goals against Spain without OTAMENDI. Consistently snuffed out attacks in both matches.
Federico FAZIO, CB
Despite many knocking FAZIO due to his lack of speed, he continually puts in solid performances in defense, and we saw how the back line can discombobulate without him against Spain. He and OTAMENDI need to be the starting center back duo going forward.
Marcos ROJO, CB
Being part of a defense that gives up six goals is one thing, but being directly at fault for about half of them is something else. Did absolutely nothing to lay claim to a spot in Russia, let alone a starting spot.
Fabricio BUSTOS, RB
Was given a tough task against Lorenzo Insigne and Marco Asensio. Had a few poor touches and was in poor position at times, but that is expected of a 21-year-old against two of the best teams in the world. Much faster and better going forward than MERCADO, but it’s a legit competition for right back.
Gabriel MERCADO, RB
Only played around 30 minutes in total, and didn’t contribute much. His versatility as a right back or center back will be needed in Russia.
Giovani LO CELSO, MID
Had a few careless passes lead to counters, but was one of Argentina’s best players in both friendlies. Grew increasingly comfortable in both games and created two fantastic scoring chances with through passes (BANEGA goal and MEZA), in addition to constantly looking to jolt forward with the ball.
Ever BANEGA, MID
Provided a serious offensive spark in the Italy match even before his goal, but was nowhere to be found against Spain’s ridiculous midfield. That is the Jekyll and Hyde nature of Ever BANEGA.
Lucas BIGLIA, MID
Supposedly a “defensive” midfielder by trade, Biglia was too slow to provide any cover for the back line. It’s a wonder he continues to play 90 minutes in every match for La Albiceleste. I guess his short passing in tight spaces is pretty good.
Leandro PAREDES, MID
His back pass into the path of Ciro Immobile that nearly led to a goal was nerve-wracking, but PAREDES showed his midfield abilities by winning the ball back at times and springing the team forward with good short and long passes. A shoulder injury kept him out of the match against Spain, where they really could’ve used him.
Javier MASCHERANO, MID
Can’t start anymore, and probably shouldn’t even come on as a substitute going forward. Played positionless against Spain and didn’t cover for the back line when Spain broke, which was consistently. Cleaned up a few counter-attacks, but that was it.
Manuel LANZINI, MID
Perhaps the man of the match against Italy, LANZINI capped off a great performance with a stellar finish for the second goal. His ability to take on defenders and track back in defense makes him an invaluable asset. He earned a spot for the World Cup.
Pablo PEREZ, MID
Didn’t get much playing time, but made a few erroneous passes in his 30 minutes. If he goes to Russia at the expense of Paulo DYBALA or Mauro ICARDI, the world will riot.
Maximiliano MEZA, Winger
Was Argentina’s best player throughout the Spain match, constantly out-dribbling defenders and embarking on dangerous runs with the ball. Needs to trust his left foot more when shooting.
Angel DI MARIA, Winger
Was wasteful with every other possession, but DI MARIA was as active as ever and provided fantastic offensive relief down the left flank. Created a few scoring chances, to boot. Would’ve been nice to see him link up with TAGLIAFICO more often.
Diego PEROTTI, Winger
Came on for an injured DI MARIA and was dangerous on the left wing, either cutting in and crossing or making things happen on the outside. PEROTTI is experienced and has technical ability that other younger players don’t. He should be on the plane to Russia as DI MARIA insurance.
Christian PAVON, Winger
PAVON is active, but it’s surprising to see him continue to get playing time ahead of Angel CORREA on the right wing. PAVON’s only contribution outside of a few successful take-ons was a dirty tackle in the waning moments of the match against Spain.
Marcos ACUNA, Winger
Only played six minutes, surprisingly. He’s a known commodity and can play on the left wing or at left back, so he will be at the World Cup.
Gonzalo HIGUAIN, Striker
Was nothing short of awful in both matches. His run and assist to LANZINI was very good, but missed way too many chances and carelessly lost the ball when trying to dribble. Sergio AGUERO needs to be healthy for the World Cup.
Lautaro MARTINEZ, Striker
Didn’t get enough playing time or service to make an impact. His future is blindingly bright, but Mauro ICARDI or Paulo DYBALA must take his spot in Russia.