Argentina have unveiled their squad for the World Cup in Qatar which is just over a week away. Coach Lionel Scaloni named a strong 26-man roster choosing from the well settled core of players as the La Albiceleste enter the tournament as one of the hot favorites.

The headlines and cameras will all on be Lionel Messi as the diminutive left footed magician enters his fifth and possibly his last World Cup aiming to win the biggest prize in World Football. The 35-year-old has 19 games across the last 4 World Cups, 2 behind cult hero Diego Maradona.

Scaloni took over from the disastrous reign of former coach Jorge Sampaoli, finishing third in 2019 Copa America. Argentina are unbeaten in 35 games across all competitions and are closing on Italy’s all-time record of 37. The South American side finished second in World Cup qualifying behind top placed Brazil but broke their duck of a long 28 year wait as they won the Copa America last year beating their archrivals at the Maracana. Scaloni also led his team to a fine 3-0 win over Italy in June in the Finalissima.


Argentina have a mixture of a strong core that Scaloni has accumulated ever since he took charge. Emiliano Martinez has been a calm presence under the sticks reminding shades of former goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea with his penalty shootout heroics against Colombia in the 2021 Copa America semi-final.

In defense Nicolas Otamendi and Cuti Romero have dominated the opposition forwards, rarely making mistakes. Lisandro Martinez, who has been the star of the season since joining Manchester United from Ajax provides a very able backup. Nicolas Tagliafico and Marcus Acuna man the left wing while Nahuel Molina, Gonzalo Montiel and Juan Foyth shore the right wing back role.

Giovani Lo Celso’s absence is a huge loss

Middle of the pitch is where Argentina will be heavily weakened as they miss out on influential creative midfielder Giovani Lo Celso, who has been Scaloni’s favorite since the 44-year-old has taken over. The Villareal player sustained a hamstring injury against Real Betis at the end of October and did everything he could to avoid surgery and travel to Qatar. However, with muscle tear and detachment, the silky left footed midfielder was left with no other option than to finally undergo surgery.

Even though Enzo Fernandez is a very able backup and is having a breakout season at Benfica attracting keen interest from several clubs including Manchester United, Argentina will miss Lo Celso’s link up ability with Messi in the attacking third. Moreover, Lo Celso had formed a great understanding with fellow midfielders Leandro Paredes and Rodrigo De Paul, the triumvirate which has been key to Argentina’s recent exploits. Alexis Mac Alister and Exequiel Palacios have shone for Brighton and Bayer Leverkusen, however neither brings the creative guile and silky dribbling ability of Lo Celso.

Paulo Dybala’s Miraculous Recovery

Even a week back, not everyone was sure on Paulo Dybala’s participation in Qatar. The 28-year-old has been sensational since joining Roma in the summer with five goals and two assists. However, when he left the pitch holding his leg in the 2-1 win over Leece, manager Jose Mourinho described that his star striker might miss the remainder of the year.

However following a special recovery regime, the former Juventus sensation rightly earns his place in the team. Much was expected of Dybala in Argentina colors, and despite not living up to his credentials, he is that sort of player who can change a game on its head.


Argentina have been placed alongside Poland, Mexico and Saudi Arabia in the group stages which they should be able to easily navigate. Messi and his band of merry men could then face Denmark and Netherlands in their knockout fixtures and winning both could see them line up against Brazil in the semis. Should they navigate their fellow continental rivals, Messi could be facing club team-mate Kylian Mbappe and France in the final. After all, who wouldn’t want Argentina’s number 10 to win the trophy following in the footsteps of the land’s greatest son Diego Maradona.

Photo credit: IMAGO / NurPhoto