CV means they can't be taken lightly
Argentina journey to Russia as the competition’s fourth most successful team in the history books. Two World Cup winner’s medals has them behind Brazil (5), Germany (4) and Italy (4). They were runners up in Brazil 2014 but haven’t come out on top since 1986.
That’s some wait but is the 32-year drought about to come to a halt? Bookies don’t think so and despite going painfully close last time you’ll find 10/1 up for grabs in the outright betting. Too high? Well, it’s certainly on the generous side and we wouldn’t put anyone off an interest.
Stars of the game in every position with experience of winning club football’s biggest prizes, but who’s the players that’ll turn silver to gold for Argentina? Here’s our three to watch out for…..
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All eyes on Messi
It’s laughable that we would start anywhere else than with the nation’s best player and one of the most gifted footballers ever to pull on a pair of boots. His long-running rivalry with Ronaldo gives fans in pubs something to debate but the little magician is a match-winner – give him the ball and he can turn the game on its head. A legend with a football and all eyes will be on him when Argentina take to the field. We feel privileged to live through the peak of Messi’s power.
It would be a crying shame if this man never got his hands on the World Cup, but he can’t do it all himself. He’ll make the goals, score the goals and even get back and defend the goals. He’ll hold play up, get things moving, work set-pieces and carry less experienced teammates through the pantomime of it all. Absolutely no surprise to see Messi priced as favourite to be the World Cup’s leading goal scorer at 10/1. Remember, this will probably be Messi’s last international tournament.
Despite what manager Sampaol says, this is not ‘Team Messi’ and the attacker can’t do it all himself. In fact, the amount of pressure heaped on his broad shoulders by the nation is more likely to crush him. That’s where he’ll need an ally, someone to chase the ball, fill the gaps and score the goals to take a bit of heat off. If Messi is double-marked in every match that leaves the supremely talented Higuain free to roam.
The Juventus front man scored 31 goals in his first 70 international caps and has the unselfish nature to roll-up his sleeves and get stuck in. His work-ethic is second to none and although he may not be the assassin in the final-third that Messi is, he’ll run his legs off for the cause. Gonzalo could be the secret weapon of this squad and if Sampaol is building Messi up to allow Higuain a bit of freedom then he’s a genius – plain and simple.
Put the glamour of Messi and Higuain to one-side for a minute and appreciate just what Otamendi brings to the table. The 30-year-old defender stands 6ft tall and is as good in the opposition penalty area as he is defending his own. The Manchester City centre-back proved as much when scoring in a friendly match against Spain recently, netting a powerful header.
He’s an imposing figure who will catch the eye in and around the box at set-pieces and if he doesn’t score himself he’ll occupy a couple of full-backs while his colleagues have a go. Fresh from his best ever season in club football he goes with confidence and a drive to succeed. Calm, assured and ambitious.