Argentina: Messi’s supporting cast
The answer to “how can Argentina win the World Cup?” has been the same since Lionel Messi first stepped on the pitch for the national team. With apologies to Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi is the best player in the world. While he hasn’t won a major trophy with Argentina, it’s certainly not because he’s not been good enough.
Messi is third in Argentina’s history with 124 caps, just behind legends Javier Zanetti and teammate Javier Mascherano. He has the most goals in their history, topping legendary names. “Impressive” is a gross understatement of the list of individual records that he holds for Argentina in major tournaments. It’s not his fault that his team stumbles along the way or can’t seem to win the final match. His teammates and manager need to pick up the slack.
Once again, Argentina will enter the World cup with an embarrassment of riches on the attacking side of the ball. The problem is that Jorge Sampaoli is either too stubborn or clueless as to know who to pick to make it all work.
Sampaoli made some interesting lineup decisions in Argentina’s humiliating and troublesome 6-1 loss to Spain in March. He seems intent on sticking with aging midfielders Lucas Biglia and Javier Mascherano in the middle, leaving their shaky defense even more open to attack. None of the defenders inspire much confidence either, as Marcos Rojo and Nicolas Otamendi look bereft of confidence more by the day.
If Argentina want to win the World Cup, it’s going to take the rest of the team to step up and play at a level similar to Messi’s. They have the talent, especially in attack, to do so; they’re just going to need to showcase it better than they have been.