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Messi and Argentina heading to Qatar with high hopes

Chuck Blake

Updated: Nov 07, 2022 01:55

Messi and Argentina heading to Qatar with high hopes

argentina-football

Lionel Scaloni’s side go into the world finals full of confidence after a long unbeaten run

Last year’s Copa America win ended a lengthy trophy drought

While Lionel Messi remains the figurehead, Argentina have evolved as a team

Argentina will travel to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM with the highest level of anticipation in recent memory.

A nation with just one goal in mind—winning a third World Cup trophy—was fueled up by the 2021 Copa America victory, achieved on Brazilian territory at the Estadio Maracana. There are several reasons why La Albiceleste are contenders for the most coveted piece of silverware in the game, not the least of which is the fact that Lionel Messi is still in the lead in what will be his fifth and, very probably, final world finals appearance.

The most basic assignment for Lionel Scaloni's team, who continue to impress, was qualification. They finished second only behind Brazil with 39 points, 11 points ahead of third, after winning 11 games and drawing six. Even if those numbers are impressive, it was the manner in which Argentina won those points and the continental championship the previous year that has its citizens dreaming of World Cup success once more.

The future of La Albiceleste seems bleak following the loss to France at Russia 2018 and the departure of a breed that had gone so close to making football history at Brazil 2014. In addition to concerns about the potential of the players who replaced them, a number of well-known coaches declined the chance to take on such a demanding position.

The Argentine Football Association's (AFA) president, Claudio Tapia, eventually decided to trust the unproven Lionel Scaloni, who had joined Jorge Sampaoli's coaching team in 2018. It has shown to be a wise decision. Four years later, with the disappointments of recent years put behind them and a psychological barrier surmounted, Scaloni will lead his team to Qatar with good spirits.

With a stable starting lineup, Messi's unwavering leadership, a fresh breed of players who can honor the jersey, and Scaloni's tactical nous, Argentina has its sights set on the third World Cup.

Clevpicks.com will introduce you the Argentina national football team...

Argentina's Group C fixtures

22 November

Argentina-Saudi Arabia (13:00 local time, Lusail Stadium)

26 November

Argentina-Mexicoic (22:00 local time, Lusail Stadium)

30 November

Poland-Argentine (22:00 local time, Stadium 974)

Scaloni's approach and tactics

Scaloni

The first time Scaloni has served as a head coach is turning out to be a memorable one. He accepted the position as interim manager after leading the U-20s to victory at the 2018 L'Alcudia International Football Tournament after a number of notable names declined.

La Albiceleste required a generational shift, which Scaloni brought about, and he won the respect of both the coaching staff and the players. Argentina was given a short-term contract that was valid until the 2019 Copa America, and he impressed his employers by leading them there before Argentina was eliminated by eventual champions Brazil. The basis for what followed was laid by that campaign.

Confirmed in the position prior to the Qatar 2022 qualification matches and the 2020 Copa America, which was postponed to the following year due to the pandemic, Scaloni assembled a strong team with a number of fresh faces dedicated to the cause of their country and to assisting their idol Messi in becoming a world champion.

Emiliano Martinez was replaced between the posts, while Leandro Paredes was transformed into a dependable central midfielder and Cristian Romero was given the chance to solidify his position in the center of defense. In the front, Angel Di Maria has been brought back into the fold as a proven matchwinner, while Lautaro Martinez has demonstrated his ability as a finisher. All have proven to be wise decisions.

While remaining grounded, Argentina defeated European champions Italy in the Finalissima to win the Copa America, their underdog coach turning out to be the answer to their protracted trophy drought. His current goal is to win the World Cup using the same strategy.

Key player: Lionel Messi

lionel-messi

The Albiceleste star's fifth global final will take place in Qatar in 2022. He is still highly influential at the age of 35. The No. 10 has modified his game to account for the unavoidable effects of time and will be Argentina's strongest suit on their trip to Qatar.

After finally winning a medal for his nation, he now seeks out the ultimate trophy to add to his long list of achievements, and Scaloni's new recruits are eager to assist him in this endeavor.

Messi still has important contributions to make in terms of planning and executing movements, despite not being the same athlete he was in his earlier years and not being able to control games from beginning to end.

There is nothing more to be said about his left foot's magic, his raw talent, his superb set-piece skills, his vision and game reading, his ability to score goals, his diabolical dribbling, or his knack for taking advantage of any weaknesses the opposition may have. Messi will travel to Qatar with the goal of completing the one hole on his resume despite spending nearly 20 years at the top of world football.

One to watch: Julian Alvarez

Alvarez might play a crucial part for his nation in Qatar 2022. He gained a transfer to Pep Guardiola's dominant Manchester City after breaking onto the scene at River Plate and scoring goals that helped them win the league. There, he has already made an impact and is continuing his upward career trajectory.

“We are delighted with Julian,” said Guardiola. “Everyone talks about Erling [Haaland] and we’re delighted with him, but Julian is an outstanding player. He’s very humble, always positive, and he gives his all in training. I like players like that. He’s always close to the ball and has an instinct for being in the right place at the right time. He shows what he can do whenever he plays.”

In addition to being a reliable goal scorer, Alvarez is also skilled at exploiting openings and spotting flaws in the defense through relentless running and pressuring.

Enzo Fernandez, a midfielder for Benfica who has only recently begun his international career but has the potential to have an influence on Scaloni's team, is another possibility for Argentina's player to watch. But in the lead-up to Qatar 2022, all eyes should be on Alvarez because there isn't a reliable second forward to support or fill in for unquestioned first-choice Lautaro Martinez.

Argentina's World Cup history

Argentina travels to Qatar with a goal of making amends for a somewhat disorganized effort in Russia 2018. After suffering a heartbreaking loss to Croatia in the group stage, they were faced with a challenging matchup against France in the round of 16, who ultimately prevailed 4-3 to claim the championship. The South Americans have recently suffered a number of discouraging defeats.

None were more agonizing than Argentina's extra-time loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup Final or the same opponents' penalty-shootout defeat of Argentina in the quarterfinals of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, a game that the Argentinians appeared to have won in regular time.

Messi and Argentina will continue to strive. La Pulga will aim to emulate Diego Armando Maradona's accomplishments in Mexico 1986, whose exploits against England in the competition's last eight are remembered by every Argentinian, in what may very well be his last world finals. The next year, La Albiceleste won their second World Cup; their previous triumph had been on home soil in 1978.


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