Argentina’s bid to bounce back from a surprise defeat to Saudi Arabia in their World Cup opener comes against Mexico on Saturday evening.
Only four teams in the 90-year history of the men’s World Cup have ever reached the final after losing their opening match of the tournament. Diego Maradona famously inspired Argentina to the showpiece in 1990 after Cameroon delivered an upset in the same realm as the reverse against Saudi Arabia.
West Germany (1982) and Italy (1994) have also recovered from an early setback to appear in the final but only Spain (2010) have lifted the trophy after losing their opening game.
Here’s the XI Lionel Scaloni may deploy to return to winning ways this weekend.
GK: Emi Martinez – Scaloni rattled through eight different goalkeepers in less than 50 matches at the helm before settling on Martinez.
RB: Nahuel Molina – The Atletico Madrid fullback used to wear a Barcelona replica kit during his childhood kickabouts in Cordoba before joining the club’s academy in Buenos Aires. Presumably he has kept his previous allegiances to himself since arriving in Madrid.
CB: Cristian Romero – Saleh Al-Shehri’s goal was the first Romero had conceded while on the pitch for Argentina in almost 15 hours of football. He only had to wait another five minutes before Salem Al-Dawsari reminded him of the sensation.
CB: Nicolas Otamendi – Mexico’s manager Gerardo Martino re-called Otamendi while he was in charge of the Albiceleste after missing out on the 2014 World Cup under Alejandro Sabella.
LB: Marcos Acuna – After enduring six unsuccessful trials growing up, Acuna is now part of his second World Cup squad.
CM: Rodrigo De Paul – Enzo Fernandez may be knocking on the door but De Paul’s place is practically bulletproof after appearing in a team-high 45 matches since Scaloni’s appointment.
CM: Leandro Paredes – One of many Argentinian players that will zoom across the pitch as Lionel Messi‘s bodyguard should he come under any overeager physical attention, Paredes is certainly focussed on the team’s number ten. “If we win the World Cup,” he said pre-tournament, “I’d be happier for him than I would be for myself.”
AM: Lionel Messi – A tricksy penalty against Saudi Arabia took Messi’s international goal tally to 12 for the calendar year, matching his career high in 2012.
RW: Angel Di Maria – Last summer, Di Maria left Paris Saint-Germain to join Juventus without the Parisians collecting a transfer fee. Even his first ever club move, from Rosario Central to El Torito, came with the promise of 35 footballs.
ST: Lautaro Martinez – “El Toro” comes from a family of footballers which includes his father, grandfather and grandmother.
LW: Julian Alvarez – Unsurprisingly, Alvarez considers it a “privilege” to play alongside Messi, a player the Manchester City forward once asked for a photo when the young Alvarez was just a fan of the Argentine national team, rather than a member.
Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders, Grizz Khan and Jack Gallagher to look back on France ’98 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!
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