Rodrigo Palacio: Could Inter Milan Striker Play for Argentina at World Cup 2014?
Despite an impressive scoring record right through his career, Inter Milan's Rodrigo Palacio has never been the most fashionable of strikers. Since his international debut in 2005, he has made just 10 international appearances, despite consistently remaining of the fringes of the Albiceleste squad.
Admittedly, Palacio's scoring record of just one goal in those 10 games for his country is poor. However, given that he has been largely forced to operate as a late substitute, his goal ratio is perhaps understandable.
In that time, while playing for Boca Juniors, Genoa and now Inter Milan, Palacio has been forced to watch on as the likes of Hernan Barcos, Franco di Santo and a 36-year-old Martin Palermo have been preferred. Palacio would be well within his rights to feel hard done in that regard.
He is far from alone though in seeing his international record suffer due to substitute appearances and inconsistent selection. Indeed, both Ezequiel Lavezzi and Diego Milito have similar goalscoring ratios, even if they have played a few more games than Palacio has managed.
After a brief absence, the Inter Milan forward is once more back in manager Alejandro Sabella's squad for upcoming fixtures with Venezuela and Bolivia. The 2014 World Cup will surely be in his sights.
An impressive 28 Serie A goals over the past 18 months would suggest that his recall is well deserved. But just why is such a talented striker finding it so difficult to obtain opportunities to impress ahead of the upcoming 2014 World Cup?
Speaking to Argentine football expert Rupert Fryer, the difficulties he will face to make that tournament become clearer.
Fryer told Bleacher Report:
To make the Argentina starting lineup in 2014 is probably a little too much to ask of him. He'll be 32 come the World Cup and Argentina has great strength in depth in attacking positions.
Sabella has, though, been searching for an alternative for the No. 9 role, with the likes of Wigan striker Franco Di Santo being working his way into the international setup. However, one doubts whether Palacio has what it takes to play that role at the very highest standard.
Should his form continue, he'll certainly be worth a place in the squad, but it's difficult to imagine him getting the nod ahead of Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi or Gonzalo Higuain in the starting lineup.
As Fryer suggests, Argentina are indeed well-stocked in attacking areas. Besides the four players mentioned, European-based stars Lavezzi and Milito will also be in direct competition for places come 2014. That is before the likes of Barcos, Ignacio Scocco, Lucas Viatri or Rogelio Funes Mori are even considered.
With a starting berth so hard to come by, a place in the Argentine 23-man World Cup squad must be Palacio's principal objective. Of Messi, Aguero, Higuain, Lavezzi, Milito, Di Santo and Palacio, two are likely to miss out. That is, of course, before considering the lurking spectre of Carlos Tevez.
Palacio is a good technical footballer and has proved a consistent finisher. He will never be, and has never been, in the elite ranks of forwards globally, but offers a work-rate and positive attitude that could swing the balance in his favour. That, at least, will be his hope.
All the former Boca Juniors idol can do is keep scoring and playing well. Keep up his performance levels for the remaining 18 months until the tournament in Brazil and he could feel truly unlucky should he miss out.
It seems, then, that Palacio was simply born in the wrong country at the wrong time as far as international selection is concerned. It is not everyday that a nation is quite so blessed with attacking talent.
At club level, though, he remains a very useful player for any side playing at any level worldwide, and Italian giants Inter Milan have certainly felt the benefit of his addition this season.
Palacio's form is making squad selection difficult for Argentina coach Sabella, but he will be glad of in-form alternatives should anything happen to his leading names ahead of next year's event. Strength in depth can never be a bad thing.
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