5 Argentina players to watch at the World Cup
With a squad packed full of talent from Europe’s top clubs, Argentina is certainly one of the title contenders at this year’s World Cup.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella is spoiled for choice, particularly up front with Lionel Messi the main scoring threat, so he can afford to leave out top-class players like Carlos Tevez.
Even without Tevez, plenty of goals are expected from Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.
Here are five players to watch:
Though immensely gifted, Lionel Messi was too young to make an impact at the 2006 World Cup. Four years later, he failed, like Argentina overall, to fulfill expectations in South Africa.
This year’s World Cup in Brazil is Messi’s chance to make a mark on football’s greatest stage and prove to those who still have doubts about his ability.
At 26, the Barcelona maestro will be at a peak age for a footballer and he’ll be surrounded by talent in an Argentine team that won its qualifying group and is considered one of the title favorites.
Even if Argentina doesn’t make it all the way, watching Messi weave through opponents promises to be one of the highlights of the World Cup.
Gonzalo Higuain’s transfer from Real Madrid to Napoli appears to have done him good.
Even though he scored 121 goals over seven seasons in Madrid, Higuain never established himself as a regular starter. He has done that at Napoli, where he’s become a mainstay in the attack and the team’s top scorer.
A clinical striker, Higuain has also been successful when called up by the national team. With nine goals, he was second only to Messi and Uruguay striker Luis Suarez in South American qualifying.
Higuain was Argentina’s top scorer at the 2010 World Cup with four goals, including a hat trick in a group match against South Korea.
In Argentina’s star-studded lineup, Sergio Romero has a fairly low profile, even though he’s been the team’s first-choice goalkeeper since the 2010 World Cup.
Some Argentines worry, however, that Romero may not be at the top of his game in Brazil because he hasn’t been playing regularly for French club Monaco this season.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella doesn’t have too many options, though. Romero’s backup, Mariano Andujar, has also been struggling to stay in the starting lineup at Italian club Catania.
A key provider for Messi, Fernando Gago is a talented midfielder with a great eye for the game.
Real Madrid signed him from Boca Juniors for $27 million in 2006, but he left the Spanish club five years later after spending most of his time on the bench.
The shortage of playing time left him out of Argentina’s World Cup squad in 2010. This time, Gago has a better chance of making it, even though he missed many of Argentina’s qualifiers due to injury.
The speedy and powerful Sergio Aguero made his debut in the Argentine league in 2003, when he was only 15. Since then, “Kun” has won Olympic gold with Argentina in 2008, the Europa League with Atletico Madrid in 2010 and the Premier League in his first season with Manchester City in 2012.
Aguero’s memorable injury-time goal against Queen’s Park Rangers in the last game of that season clinched City’s first league title in four decades.
As long as he arrives in Brazil injury-free, he’s a given in Argentina’s World Cup squad but may have to battle with Gonzalo Higuain for a place in the starting lineup.