FIFA World Cup Special : Team talk – Lionel Messi’s Argentina ready to go one better than last time

Argentina players are determined to win the World Cup this time.

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We begin our “Team Talks” for Group D of the FIFA World Cup 2018, with 2014 Runners Up Argentina.

Team : ARGENTINA

Coach: Jorge Sampaoli
Captain: Lionel Messi
Nickname(s): La Albiceleste
Last Qualified in: 2014
Result in 2014: Runners Up
Qualified as: CONMEBOL Round Robin 3rd Place (10 October 2017)
Previous World Cup Appearances: (16 Times) 1930, 1934, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014.
Best World Cup Finals Result: Champions in 1978 and 1986.

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Final Squad:

Nahuel Guzmán, Willy Caballero, Franco Armani; Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Federico Fazio, Nicolas Tagliafico, Marcos Rojo, Marcos Acuna, Cristian Ansaldi, Eduardo Salvio; Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria, Ever Banega, Lucas Biglia, Manuel Lanzini, Gio Lo Celso, Maximiliano Meza; Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Cristian Pavon.

Key Players:

1) Nicolas Otamendi: 

The 30-year old will be playing in his second world cup, 8 years after his first in 2010. But contrary to last time, the Manchester City defender is now considered to be one of the bests in the world. The PFA Team of the Season 2017-18 member will be leading the Argentina back-line in Russia and his form will be crucial for the 2-times Champions.

2) Nicolas Tagliafco: 

The young Ajax full-back is being highly rated as one of the brightest young talents in the world. The 25-year old has already been compared to Argentine legend Javier Zanetti, owing to his “lung-busting stamina, excellent technique and continuous enterprise”. In an otherwise not so awe-inspiring Argentine back-line, the former Independiente defender will have a huge role to play.

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3) Angel Di Maria:

The PSG man is regarded as the best Argentine winger/attacking midfielder of this age. The veteran of many battles has not proved his actual potential at the biggest stage, and Russia might be the perfect place for the 30-year old to shut his critics once and for all.

4) Giovani Lo Celso: 

The Italian Argentine midfielder has been highly rated by many. In his playing time at French champions PSG, the 22-year old has grabbed a lot of eye-balls. With his fellow club-mate Angel Di Maria alongside him, the former Rosario Central man will have to bring his A-game to Russia to make it happen in National Colours.

5) Paolo Dybala:

The Juventus forward has been in tremendous form during his club’ Scudetto winning season, scoring 22 goals in 33 league games. The 24-year old, nicknamed as La Joya meaning The Jewel, will have to form a deadly partnership upfront with Lionel Messi to bolster the forward line of Argentina.

6) Lionel Messi:

Considered by many to be the best ever, Russia might be the last time we will be seeing Lionel Messi at the grandest stage of all. At 30, the Argentine captain will be desperate to finally for his elusive cup triumph in national colours, and his form will be the most important for Jorge Sampaoli’s team.

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Recent Form:

The Albiceleste showed great composure in the final rounds of the CONMEBOL qualifiers to bounce back from almost missing out to qualify in 3rd place. In their last 11 internationals, including the qualifiers, the South Americans have won six, drawn thrice and lost twice.

Group matches:

Argentina have been drawn in Group D alongside Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria. They will play Iceland in their opening match on 16th of June, followed by Croatia and Nigeria on 21st and 26th June respectively.

Prediction:

Argentina were one of the favourites to lift the cup in 2014, before they faltered at the final hurdle. Despite boasting of a weaker side to last time, Argentina will always start as one of the favourites. Even though they are in the group of death, anything short of the quarter finals or possibly a semi final will be considered a disappointment for them. Having said that, with the required luck and the prowess of the Argentinian match-winners, they can very much win the World Cup for a 3rd time.

Trivia:

Legendary Argentinian forward Gabriel Batistuta is the only player in World Cup history to score hat-tricks at two different World Cups. Incidentally on the exact same day (21 June) in 1994 and 1998, “Batigoal” scored hat-tricks against World Cup débutantes Greece and Jamaica, respectively! He is also one of the four to have scored multiple hat-tricks at the grandest stage, after Sandor Koksis (1954), Just Fontaine (1958) and Gerd Muller (1970).

 

How far do you think Argentina will progress this year? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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