Despite the big-chance blower not being the flavour of the month for many Argentina fans, Gonzalo Higuain is in Jorge Sampaoli’s latest Albiceleste squad
Jorge Sampaoli has named his latest Argentina squad ahead of the friendlies against Italy and Spain this month and while the manager has voiced his displeasure with the fixtures he has made some bold choices with such little time before for the World Cup.
The Argentine-based players are yet to be added with Lautaro Martínez, Cristian Pavón and a right-back expected to join the group but with Sampaoli stating: “I have 80% of the list for the World Cup ready in my head but the remaining 20% is complex,” competition for only a few still available spots at the World Cup is fierce.
Jorge Sampaoli names his @Argentina squad for the friendlies against Italy and Spain this month.
Higuaín returns and no Icardi or Dybala as expected pic.twitter.com/kYAFtNIRp6
— Peter Coates (@golazoargentino) March 1, 2018
Despite not playing a great deal together in recent years, old pals Lionel Messi and Sergio Agüero will form a key part of Jorge Sampaoli’s attack in Russia and as such that link-up will look to be revitalised this month.
Messi, one of the few guaranteed starters, and Agüero, the striker to have finally gained superiority in the number nine battle, will draw little arguments against their roles but it is the inclusion of Gonzalo Higuaín and the absence of Mauro Icardi and Paulo Dybala that will raise eyebrows.
“[Paulo] Dybala, [Alejandro] Gómez and [Mauro] Icardi are players that we know very well but aren’t going through the best moment their clubs, and we want to have a look at other players and compare them. That they haven’t been called up now doesn’t mean they can’t make the World Cup squad.”
No doors are closed but in these final friendlies before the end of the season, it is an indication that Higuaín is now leading the way.
While there is a familiar look to Argentina’s group of midfielders, Javier Mascherano’s inclusion is an interesting development from Jorge Sampaoli previously considering El Jefecito as a central defender.
With regulars Lucas Biglia, Éver Banega and Ángel Di María still there, will Sampaoli revert to the midfield so often used since the World Cup four years ago or do the call-ups for Leandro Paredes, Manuel Lanzini and Giovani Lo Celso point to a younger, more dynamic midfield?
Finding a reliable partner for Nicolás Otamendi remains the task here and nothing displays Argentina’s shortage in this area than the recalls of Ramiro Funes Mori and Marcos Rojo. The pair have missed the best part of a year through injuries and are yet to regain form at club level for Everton and Manchester United respectively and yet are straight back into Argentina contention.
Ajax defender Nicolás Tagliafico earning a long overdue call-up is a good step towards Argentina fielding a natural left-back but the inclusions of Marcos Acuña and Eduardo Silva as ‘defenders’ suggests Sampaoli’s three-man defence and wing-backs idea is still in the works.
¡Felicitaciones, @Nico_Taglia! 🇦🇷🙏🏻
Our favourite in the Selección Argentina!
Agree? 😌 pic.twitter.com/JeZtHUa6tF
— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) March 1, 2018
Sergio Romero and Nahuel Guzmán appear nailed on to take two of the places in Russia and while Chiquito might not be featuring regularly for Manchester United, he has never let Argentina down.
The third spot is up for grabs and Willy Caballero has been given a chance after impressing for Chelsea. It is perhaps at least four years too late for the 36-year-old but a place in Russia could be a great reward for a terrific career that began with an under-20 World Cup triumph in 2001.