Jorge Sampaoli has tested 55 players since he took over Argentina job. He said he has 80% of his name ready for the final 23-man squad for Russia 2018, but it seems highly unlikely that his list won’t go for a major overhaul after 6-1 humiliation against Spain.
It feels like former Sevilla coach even himself don’t know what he wants to do with the team. The dream is to win the World Cup in Russia, but the preparation looks far from a world champion prospect. In international friendly against Italy and Spain, the team hardly gave an impression of being title favorite. And, if the truth is to be told, it was even weaker than the one who finished runners-up at 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Now, they have been tested against one of title favorite Spain and they have a reality check. The 6-1 humiliation left too many questions unanswered and it’s hardly going to be answered in those two and half months left in preparation for Russia 2018.
There wasn’t too much difference in Brazil and Argentina when Tite took over Selecao job and Sampaoli was appointed La Albiceleste’s manager. Whereas Tite goes from strength to strength to give Brazil solidarity, Sampaoli simply stands where he started with Argentina Football Association.
Argentina was a one-man team before he arrived and Argentina is still one man team. Without talisman Lionel Messi, they are not even a team to be ranked in top 50. Messi is the only one who makes the difference and it was his one-man show that earned La Albiceleste a place in FIFA World Cup Russia 2018.
If it wasn’t Messi’s solo performance against Ecuador in last world cup qualifier match, Argentina wouldn’t have earned a spot in Russia 2018. Messi made clear that half of the job is done, and his team will be better prepared for the showpiece in Russia. However, on their first trip to Europe to show the world their preparation for World Cup they failed miserably.
Jorge Sampaoli’s Argentina travelled to Europe to play international friendly against Italy and Spain. It may have been a friendly tour but it was organized to test each participating team preparation for Russia 2018. Sampaoli travelled with 17 safe surnames: Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Diego Perotti, Lucas Biglia, Ever Banega, Leonardo Paredes, Javier Mascherano, Nicolas Otamendi, Gabriel Mercado, Frederico Fazio, Marcos Rojo, Ramiro Funes Mario, Marcos Acuna, Sergio Romero, Nahuel Guzman.
However, He didn’t recall Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi despite their noticeable performances for Juventus and Inter Milan respectively. There were also Agüero, Salvio and Enzo Pérez who didn’t participate despite being in the squad. Lanzini impressed against Italy but was in the squad against Spain. Giovani Lo Celso took the advantage of Messi’s injury and Dybala’s not included in the team. PSG player played in both games and I wonder what was wrong with Dybala if Sampaoli needed to play someone in Messi’s role.
Willy Caballero blamed for the goals against Spain. Marcos Rojo is not a center-back so why play him in a central role. He has Frederico Fazio from AS Roma in the team from one of the most formidable backline in Europe. Why didn’t he test him with Nicolas Otamendi? Ajax left-back Nicolas Tagliafico did a good enough job but it’s still a learning face for him. Gabriel Mercado is a proven right-back playing for Sevilla, so why Sampaoli didn’t test him. He goes for 21-year-old Atletico Independiente’s player Fabricio Bustos as his replacement.
Midfield was a burden on Argentina team. Javier Mascherano has moved to China and playing for Hebei China Fortune. His age is not helping him in a defensive midfield role. He is slow and not ready to anticipate the game as he was with Barcelona. Why he was in the team is questionable? He wasn’t in the frame while opposition team was in our penalty area. His slowness on the ball didn’t allow Lucas Biglia and Ever Banega to play their natural game. There was too much gap in the middle and in the result, Argentina often found themselves on the back-foot against Spain.
Javier Pastore, Diego Perotti, and Eduardo Silva missed on the trip. We hope to see them back in the squad next time. Higuain blamed for his missed chances, but it’s not new from Juventus star. However, if it was for Juventus, it could have raised eyebrows.
Jorge Sampaoli needs to find the soul of this Argentina team. From decades international teams have worked on the model of bringing the in-form players in the squad and work your idea around them because they hardly ever have time to build a new team. Why is Sampaoli missing this simple recipe? Call on your best around the world and put them into the team. They’ll automatically come up with their best to keep themselves in the playing XI.
Without Messi – without Angel Di María, Sergio Agüero and Paulo Dybala either – it felt as if there was not much point seeking it here. Time is running out to build a mechanism that works. There was little here to offer optimism for the Argentineans in Madrid who made this an occasion, bar occasional first‑half moments from Giovani Lo Celso and Meza.
Argentina doesn’t need occasion and moments, they need momentum. They need a buildup which likes of Spain, Brazil, and Germany already have. Two and half months to go and Sampaoli doesn’t have his team sheet ready. Sampaoli needs to find a way for a turnaround before Russia 2018. Keep it simple stupid…