Argentina’ll Be Hard Nuts To Crack

Good day sports fans across the globe, its great to be here with another edition of my column. We shall be looking at the Argentine team and the players used in their world Cup qualification, including the minutes the players contributed to see the country go through to the World Cup in Brazil.
In the previous six World Cups hosted in South America, at least a country from that continent has come out tops. That includes both of Argentina’s previous World Cup wins on home soil in ’78 and at Mexico ’86. Past history, therefore, appears to point to a successful summer for the La Albiceleste.
A glance at their squad merely confirms the suspicion that they are amongst the frontrunners for the world soccer’s biggest prize this summer. Mixing the tenacity of Javier Mascherano and Pablo Zabaleta with the pace of Angel Di Maria and the goals of Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, they appear to have it all. And we haven’t even mentioned the phenomenon that is Lionel Messi.
Yet they are not without their weaknesses, with much debate back home centerring on who should start between the sticks. Sergio Romero is in pole position, but he has not nailed down a regular spot at Monaco, while there is a similar lack of quality in defense.
For coach Alejandro Sabella however, it has often simply been a case of getting the best out of his magician Messi.
They are so blessed with attacking options that Carlos Tevez has not featured for his country since 2011, yet Messi remains both the puzzle and key.
If Sabella can fully unleash Messi this summer, as he threatened to do at the end of the qualifying series, then they will pull some strings.
Below are statistics of how the players fared during the qualifiers; Argentina played 16 matches and used a total of 45 players for the qualifiers.

Player Club(s) Minutes played in qualifying rounds
Sergio Romero Sampdoria (ITA), Monaco (FRA) 1,260 mins
Lionel Messi Barcelona (ESP) 1,141 mins
Ángel Di María Real Madrid (ESP) 1,039 mins
Federico Fernández Napoli (ITA), Getafe (ESP) 990 mins
Javier Mascherano Barcelona (ESP) 978 mins
Pablo Zabaleta Man. City (ENG) 966 mins
Gonzalo Higuaín Real Madrid (ESP) 860 mins
Ezequiel Garay Benfica (POR) 810 mins
Marcos Rojo Spartak Moskva (RUS), Sporting CP (POR) 788 mins
Fernando Gago Roma(ITA),Valencia(ESP),V/Sarsfield,Boca Jnrs(ARG)663 mins
Sergio Agüero Man. City (ENG) 575 mins
Hugo Campagnaro Napoli (ITA), Internazionale (ITA) 562 mins
Rodrigo Palacio Genoa (ITA), Internazionale (ITA) 461 mins
Éver Banega Valencia (ESP) 433 mins
Ezequiel Lavezzi Napoli (ITA), PSG (FRA) 391 mins
Lucas Biglia Anderlecht (BEL), Lazio (ITA) 377 mins
José Basanta Monterrey (MEX) 360 mins
Clemente Rodríguez Boca Juniors (ARG) 360 mins
Nicolás Burdisso Roma (ITA) 308 mins
José Sosa Metalist Kharkiv (UKR) 306 mins
Rodrigo Braña Estudiantes La Plata (ARG) 267 mins
Mariano Andújar Catania (ITA) 180 mins
Martín Demichelis Málaga (ESP) 180 mins
Sebastian Dominguez Vélez Sarsfield (ARG) 180 mins
Nicolás Otamendi Porto (POR) 180 mins
Gino Peruzzi Vélez Sarsfield (ARG) 180 mins
Walter Montillo América FC (BRA) 148 mins
Pablo Guiñazú SC Internacional (BRA), Club Libertad (PAR) 132 mins
Maxi Rodríguez Newell’s Old Boys (ARG) 103 mins
Javier Pastore PSG (FRA) 96 mins
Fabricio Coloccini Newcastle (ENG) 90 mins
Erik Lamela Tottenham (ENG) 86 mins
Augusto Fernández Celta de Vigo (ESP) 82 mins
Ricardo Álvarez Internazionale (ITA) 59 mins
Leandro Desábato Estudiantes La Plata (ARG) 52 mins
Leonardo Ponzio River Plate (ARG) 28 mins
Leandro Somoza Lanús (ARG) 22 mins
Fabian Rinaudo Sporting CP (POR) 18 mins
Enzo Pérez Benfica (POR) 16 mins
Hernán Barcos SE Palmeiras (BRA) 11 mins
Eduardo Salvio Atlético Madrid (ESP) 10 mins
Mauro Icardi Internazionale (ITA) 8 mins
Matías Rodríguez Universidad de Chile (CHI) 7 mins
Jonás Gutiérrez Newcastle (ENG) 5 mins
Franco Di Santo Wigan (ENG) 4 mins

Provisional 30-man Argentina 2014 World Cup Squad:
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Sampdoria), Mariano Andujar (Catania), Agustin Orion (Boca Juniors).
Defenders: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Federico Fernandez (Napoli), Ezequiel Garay (Benfica), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon), Hugo Campagnaro (Inter Milan), Martin Demichelis (Manchester City), Jose Basanta (Monterrey), Nicolas Otamendi (Atletico Mineiro), Lisandro Lopez (Getafe), Gabriel Mercado (River Plate).
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Ever Banega (Newell’s Old Boys), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan), Augusto Fernandez (Celta Vigo), Jose Sosa (Atletico Madrid), Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Maxi Rodriguez (Newell’s Old Boys), Fabian Rinaudo (Catania), Enzo Perez (Benfica).
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Rodrigo Palacio (Inter Milan), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris St-Germain), Franco Di Santo (Werder Bremen).
Possible Argentina Starting Line-Up
Zabeleta Fernandez Garay Rojo
Gago Mascherano Di Maria
Messi Higuain Aguero

I hope you have seen why Argentina are going to be hard nuts to crack in Brazil? Well, join me again for another edition, till then, have a nice day and poke in some goals for now and the future. Remember, only goals and consistency make a difference in life.
Please, do send your reactions to
Peter Ijeh,
ULc, BSs.

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