Players missing for Argentina U23 team, what went wrong at the Tokyo Olympics


Argentina Olympic coach Fernando Batista could not be entirely blamed for his team crashing out in the group stages of the tournament as once more, an Olympic coach did not have the entire backing of the clubs.

For the second consecutive Olympic tournament, Argentina were eliminated in the first round. After winning two back to back gold medals, the first in Athens in 2004 and the second coming in Beijing four years later, Argentina have not gotten close to a podium finish ever since.

At the time, reigning Olympic champions in football, the defending gold medalists failed to qualify for the 2012 London games and in 2016, just like in Tokyo, they were out after three matches. Reading the names of the 2008 gold medal winning squad is like reading an all star team of players.

Lionel Messi, Juan Roman Riquelme, Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano, Ever Banega, Pablo Zabaleta, Ezequiel Lavezzi and many others were responsible for the team winning the tournament.

Going back even further in 2004, once more, a star studded team. Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano, Roberto Ayala, Javier Saviola, Gabriel Heinze, Fabricio Coloccini, Kily Gonzalez and the list goes on and on.

This time around, there were arguably more “big” names left out than those that were called-up. But maybe not much of the blame can fall on Batista.

Cristian Romero
Lautaro Martinez
Lisandro Martinez
Exequiel Palacios
Gonzalo Montiel
Julian Alvarez
Nicolas Dominguez
Nicolas Gonzalez

All eight of those players won the Copa America with Argentina. However, all of them were eligible for the Olympic team as well. In addition, the likes of Juan Foyth (Villarreal), Matias Zaracho (Atletico Mineiro), Matias Palacios (FC Basel), Marcos Senesi (Feyenoord), Leonardo Balerdi (Olympique Marseille), Dario Sarmiento (Estudiantes), Cristian Medina (Boca Juniors), Exequiel Zeballos (Boca Juniors), could have been in the side as well.

Fernando Batista was allowed to take three overage players to Tokyo. He had initially picked two in goalkeeper Jeremías Ledesma and Lucas Alario. Ultimately, it was only Ledesma who went as Alario ended up missing the games due to injury. That left the spot open for two overage players.

Paulo Dybala, who was completely left out of the Copa America squad, could have been selected as one of the players over the age restrictions. Mauro Icardi has yet to take part in a tournament for Argentina. He was another one who stayed at home.

Which begs the question as to why none of those players mentioned made the squad. You could make the argument and say that the eight players which won the Copa America would need the rest of the summer off after a long club season. That would be understandable.

However, it’s odd that Batista was not relying at all on Foyth, Zaracho, Palacios, Senesi, Balerdi, Sarmiento, Medina or Zeballos. The team played two friendly matches in June prior to the Olympics. Matches which Dybala, Icardi, Palacios, Senesi or Balerdi (all of which are based in Europe) could have used to have been integrated into the team.

It’s no secret that some of the bigger clubs like Boca Juniors and River Plate back in Argentina would not allow their players to take part in the Olympics. And perhaps that is why we didn’t get a single player from any of those two clubs. Since winning the second gold medal in Beijing, some Argentine clubs have become somewhat hesitant in releasing their players for the tournament.

There was a clash between then Olympic coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino and the Argentine clubs back in 2016 when the clubs reportedly refused to release the players for the games in Rio. Instead, Martino stepped down as coach and 1986 World Cup winner Julio Olarticoechea ended up managing the team. He would go on to reveal that he had to ask his daughter for money because there was nothing from the Argentine federation:

“Caldera, my assistant, does a thousand things. He earns 18,000 pesos per month and for three months now he hasn’t gotten paid. He organized everything for the guys, he’s helped us a lot.”

“Yesterday, I called my wife and told her to take money from my daughter, who is a baker and earns good money. I spoke to the higher up’s (AFA leaders) that we needed money. And I’m taking money from my daughter. It’s something to cry about but it’s reality.”

While 2016 was a total fiasco, this time around, it was slightly different. Looking beyond the player selection, Batista himself got it wrong more often than not throughout the tournament. Some questionable decisions and a clear lack of a playing style was there for all to see. But some people underperformed as well.

Alexis Mac Allister was one of the stars for Argentina and was one of the main reasons why the team qualified for the Olympics. But even he underperformed.

Arguably Argentina’s best player of the tournament was the only overage player, Jeremías Ledesma of Cadiz. A clean sheet, 11 saves and four goals allowed in three matches, the team was not eliminated because of him. If anything, the team still had a chance because he was making those saves. But as mentioned, it was the lack of proper tactics, players underperforming and several names missing from the squad which meant that Argentina are out of the tournament.


  1. Almost all of the above mentioned players are playing for the Senior NT bar one or two most of them where not part of Batista’s Scheme (Like Lizandro Martinez etc.). Weather he may had taken Dybala, Icardi, Foyth etc. etc. is hypothetical, Batista haven’t selected any of them, so that’s not an excuse, the absence of River and Boca players can be considered as a genuine excuse.

    Scary part is the players who were selected for the Olympics is mostly Batista’s base players who have been playing under Batista for some years now, Players like Colambatto, De la Vega, Barco, Mac Allister etc. etc. form his core players, even with so much time playing together we still weren’t able to qualify to the second round, which is a failure of Batista. While it’s easy to play the blame game. Any way let’s hope our next Generation of players put up a better showing for the senior NT. After all we all thought our current generation of players like Paredes, De Paul, etc. etc. who are considered not as talented as the previous Golden generation of players but they won us a Copa which none of our legendary predecessors couldn’t do for 28 years. Now we can say that Messi, Di Maria, Otamendi did it for us, but they were ably supported by the likes of De Paul, Paredes, Acuna etc. etc. So weather we are playing with Golden generation players or not doesn’t matter.

    On a brighter spot, Even the Super powerhouse nations like France & Germany also knocked out in the group stage, Usually the under 23 results don’t transform much to the senior sides bar some exceptions.

  2. Thiago Almada set to go to MLS with Atlanta United. Deal almost done & being reported by credible sources like Fabrizio romano. Such a sad move & as weird as Gaich’s CSKA move last season. Cant believe Velez & Almada went for Atlanta United when Marseille was wanting him. Local clubs really killing our talent for short bucks. A brazilian similar talent would be now sitting in Real Madrid. Even the idea of connecting with Barco & Sosa doesnt justify our best 20yr talent going to MLS . A sacrifice of his atleast 2 years in retirement league

  3. I agree with Roy, it’s a multitude of factors but still, this Argentina squad is good enough to beat freaking Australia and advance to the next round, I mean heck they beat a clearly superior [to Australia] Egypt and matched Spain (one of the tournament favorites). Hence it’s primarily Batista’s fault because he crapped the bed when it came to the easiest game of the group.

    One thing I should say about Boca and River……f**k both of ’em! J.Alvarez would’ve made a difference while the likes of C.Medina, Varela and Almendra (allow atleast one of them to go) would’ve benefitted hugely from the exposure.
    By providing the olympic team with the necessary support, you ensure that the team does well (because the talent is there) and when the team does well, big clubs take notice and make better offers than the pennies both River and Boca have been getting, honestly it’s business.

  4. Somebody needs to remind the poor Brazilians who the COPA AMERICA CHAMPIONS ARE.
    Beating their asses on their own soil, losing their first COPA on home soil, watching Messi lift the COPA AMERICA trophy in their back yard, having their best player kiss at Messi’s feet and calling him the best football player he’s ever seen, failing to score a single goal with FIVE attackers LOL and will soon watch Capo dei capi lift his 7th Ballon d ‘Or thanks to winning COPA 😉 after wrapping all the tournament individual awards.
    Yeah, sure, let them have their moment in the sun for now.
    BTW, how old is Dani Alves? 50 hehehehe

    • Ramos says he wants Messi at PSG……he just arrived there and already dissing Neymar (i’m sticking to my promise of not trolling him anymore) and his sidekick LOL

      • Every player that played alongside CR always claimed Messi is GOAT once that player didnt play with CR anymore lol. Even those MU guys who won CL with CR … hell, even Mourinho once he left Real Madrid lol

    • Brazil needs this tournament more than us especially after losing at home turf to Argentina.

      They had a perfect Copa America home record , 5 wins out of 5, and then it’s their arch rival who broke their record at Maracana lol. You cant blame them for being insecure probably for the next 10 years or perhaps forever 😀

      On side note, Argentina hosted Copa the most times (9) and Brazil never win at Argentina.

  5. You guys see the video where Richalson and a few Brazil players are mocking the Argentine Olympic team because they got knocked out of the tournament?

    According to an article I read……
    last week Paredes commented on Richalson hat trick post on Instagram saying ” what about the copa final?”
    So now Richalson and company are striking back with a video saying “goodbye little brothers” because of their early exit from the Olympics.
    It is some young punk shit, but paredes shouldn’t start, he needs a lesson in class and etiquette from Messi. I’m not defending the Brazil players, but I am saying that if you deal with dirt, you get dirty.

    • Paredes didn’t start, it was Richalson who started it and provoked the Argentines by saying before the start of the Copa that he wanted to face Argentina in the final and will score a hat-trick onto them. Paredes’s comment was a response to what the Brazilian idiot said earlier and the Brazilians are still continuing their idiocy.

    • Well.. if that’s true, the least takeaway is Barco and Almada teaming up along the left-center zone and reviving Atlanta Utd. to climb high up the MLS ladder…

  6. It is quite shocking what Batista is saying.
    Caldera earns 18,000 pesos per month. That is 156 euro’s per month as 1 peso = 0,0087 euro. It is less than Messi earned every 2 minutes!

    I know Argentina has been in crisis for almost the entire 21st century, but this is downright shocking. Being coach or assistant in Argentina is close to charity work.

    We can simply forget about hiring a quality coach. Tata had money issues with AFA too.
    Lack of funds means it is impossible to start a decent training program for our youth squads. Really sad.

  7. Nobody like to lose. i understand that. it can t make you happy sure. i am not too. ok.
    But honestly can somebody tell me one good reason why i should give a damn because one random team of young kids didn t qualify to the next round of Olympic tournament?
    Just few days before we win Copa america in Maracana. next year exist world cup and our team have been on track for something big there.
    sorry if people here get angry with me but i don t give a fuck for this tournament. we win 2004 and 2008. this time we didn t. fine by me. in end we didn t humiliated. one win one draw and one loss. so what? the future of our national team? this didn t effected at all. it is irrelevant.

    • Disappointed because, Batista could have a done a very sensible thing by starting Almada, De La Vega, Barco(free role) and Payero which would have almost certainly got us through to the next stage.

    • I hear you Cox. I am also not too worried for our immediate future because the most talented youngsters did not participate in this tournament. I think just the fullback positions and maybe CF is a concern, but we have a decent midfield and central defenders. It’s not the end of the world.

    • Agreed, I mean it is sad to not see them play more and win more but what has a greater effect is if our players don’t do transfers to the mls and get good moves. No matter what this tournament did not have bearing on the next World Cup

  8. First of all, Batista was a temperless, exhausted coach who failed to vibrate the team with positive & winning attitude!
    Secondly, He couldn’t select perfect over-aged players & simply wasted this opportunity!
    Thirdly & may be most dangerous, our future albeceleste generation are not that much good as before!

    BUT….hope that a proper coach, a proper tactics can make them a winning team like Simeone’s Atletico/Ranieri’s Licester City..
    So..lets see!

  9. I blame it all on the coach. He had the players for quite some times and he knew what he has to work with. How an Argentina U23 can’t compete with U23 of Australia?…. The players like Perez, Medina, Fausto, Macalister, Barco, Belmonte are good players who can play a decent game. The team didn’t show anything in 3 games. Nothing at all….. The first game was a disaster. It’s a coaching problem… Don’t look for further explanation…

  10. Under 23 players are allowed to play Olympics. We have better u23 players that can make upto 2 teams for Olympics but we’re not released or not used. So I don’t have much concern about our future.
    What I don’t like that how they can’t take 3 over aged players. They could have easily changed a game. Just see how we lost against Australia.After that match, I commented here our Olympics is over. Because Spain and Egypt was better than Australia. But we fought and earned 4 out of available 6 points. Just miss management cost us.
    We have many youngsters who can fill NT for years.
    We just missed opportunity.

  11. Batista what waste man he is I can’t believe he didn’t use thiago almada instead very disappointing MacAllister
    Positive are Perez, medina, da le vega and Tomás Belmonte who should play more.
    Af course almada who showed how highly rated he is in last 20 minutes vs Spain, please don’t go mls for your own career sake

  12. As for the Olympic result, 1-1 against the fave Spain is not bad. But Batista paid the price for playing extremely poor against Australia in the first game.

    I think most members of this squad is super average. I am very disappointed that some of them did not grow at all from their WC u20 form.
    Gaich was the worst one, he was even better 2 years ago than now.

    Medina and Perez play much better in the Egypt and Spain game. They still have a future for the national team. Herrera much better than De La Fuente at RB, but also average. Both Bravo and Ortega at LB are not national team material at all. The goalie Ledesma looks better than both Armani and Marchesin in Copa America.

    Fausto Vero is not bad. I hope he will improve. I like Payero mentality. He is always in attack mode, although he is quite average technically. De La Vega must improve. Nothing special so far.

    MacAllister? man… this dude is good for nothing. All Argentina players who wore number 10 since 1980 are better than him. From the generation of Maradona, Ortega, Gallardo, Aimar, Riquelme, Ibagaza, D’Alessandro, Tevez, until Messi all are better than him. This MacAllister only relies on set pieces and his set pieces is average. He plays like he was 40+ year old player. No pace, no energy. For someone that short and that young, he should be fast, but he is super slow like Riquelme. I don’t think Scaloni should ever consider him.

    Valenzuela and Urzi also average. Colombatto is average. Belmonte is pretty good. Barco was not used properly. They should give him the ball more often.

    I think the whole players on the team will find a hard time finding any European clubs who are interested in them now. Olympic is always one of the best tournaments to showcase your talents. I just feel sorry for these 18 players. They are not a total failure but they have done their best in their average ability in the Olympic.

  13. By the way off topic. I don’t know how, from where but Barcelona reportedly have submitted their offer to Atalanta for… Cristian Romero who is valued at €60 million.

    At first I thought it was fake, but it doesn’t seem to be a complete bullshit as a couple of Italian journalists were the ones reporting it. I am just waiting for Fabrizio Romano to confirm it whether it is true or not.

    The question is they are currently the poorest club in the world. They are in danger to not be able to play Messi and all the new players such as Aguero until January because of their wage problem. So how?

    Anyway I am convinced that Romero himself already set his heart somewhere else. He does not want to be in Atalanta. He wants a new challenge. So in less than 3 weeks, we should find the answer.

    Romano last night in his TV show says that Romero will end up in Hotspur eventually. He is confident that there will be a deal soon.

    • Atalanta wants cash only and they won’t take less than their valuation which is 60m. But they are flexible regarding payment method. They are willing to take installments.

      One journalist reported that Barca want a loan deal. May be a loan with an obligation to buy in next year can be suitable for Barca. With fans returning to stadium, Barca could cover their financial losses slowly. Their main problem is high wages. It is almost unbelievable how much barca players earn for doing nothing.

    • “the poorest club in the world. ” Not true recently they received $500m loan from goldman sacs and $700mn by their sponsors. The primary problem of Barcelona is their wage system that doesn’t satisfy La liga norms they have to bring their wage bill to $387m earlier which was $657 mn highest in world. Their economic condition will revive as the situation normalizes, Scope of club like Barca is huge No club has such a big followers like Barca in asia, Africa , Europe and America .Real Madrid was in a worse condition when Perez took the charge.
      Yes they can sign Romero if they find some formula to sign him .

  14. Well summarized article by Roy.
    1) Batista gets credit for integrating Almada, De La Vega & Payero in squad in the end.
    2) We do not know whether he actually preferred Urzi, Colambatto , De la Fluente, Ponce, Ortega , Mosevich or maybe he did not have any other option . If local & foreign clubs did not release Senesi, Balerdi, J Alvarez, Ascacibar , Zaracho or overage players like a good fullback or striker – blame is on AFA or relevant authorities .
    3) If a Dybala/ Icardi / Ocampos/ Foyth did not want to go after Olympics glory – its again not Batista’s fault. Its player priorities.
    4) Its unfortunate that Gaich & Macclister were off color . They are better than what we saw in this tournament & maybe it was less playing minutes this season which kept them below their potential.

    • But we should have a new youth coaching leader. Its not Batista for future. Would love to see someone like Masche coming in & running this for next few years. Or a old hat like Pekerman

  15. Yaa icardi and dybala was a must two superstars could have lifted the youngsters spirit, whats way more frustrating is
    1)AFA giving whole world the feeling that we dont have worldclass youngsters
    2)they are blocking those players chances to move to big clubs
    3)what find more surprrising is seeing thiago almada sitting on bench, the boy we all were talking for 2-3 years as the next big thing from argentina

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