When Alejandro Sabella named his 22-man Argentina squad to face Romania in a friendly international in Bucharest on March 5, it was further proof of what many had suspected—the Albicelestes coach has already made up his mind as to the names of the majority of the players he will be taking to Brazil this year.
Four players from Argentina's domestic league are expected to be added to the list: Agustin Orion, Fernando Gago, Ever Banega and Maxi Rodriguez.
There were only two changes made to the last Argentina squad that was selected for the match against Bosnia and Herzegovina back in November, while a couple of high-profile names who had been mooted for possible inclusion by the local media were nowhere to be seen.
There are a number of players who can be considered certainties for Brazil 2014, barring injury.
Those are goalkeepers Sergio Romero, Mariano Andujar and Orion, defenders Hugo Campagnaro, Federico Fernandez, Ezequiel Garay, Marcos Rojo and Pablo Zabaleta and midfielders Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria, Ricardo Alvarez, Banega, Gago and Rodriguez.
The five forwards named for the Romania match are also very likely to be those selected for the World Cup: Rodrigo Palacio, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and, of course, Lionel Messi.
These players have all been consistently picked by Sabella for a number of months whenever they have been available. In total, they number 19.
Therefore, there are seemingly only four more spots up for grabs.
Fighting for those last places are the likes of Jose Basanta, Nicolas Otamendi, Augusto Fernandez, Jose Sosa, Lucas Biglia and the two surprise call-ups this time around, Gino Peruzzi and Lisandro Lopez.
Sabella could make the decision on the final members of his squad based on form for the remainder of the season, how players perform in the preparatory internationals and what kind of balance he wants in terms of numbers of defenders and midfielders.
Carlos Tevez, Esteban Cambiasso and Martin Demichelis have been consistently ignored by the manager in his selections and, having been left out again for the Romania match, it now appears a given that they will not be considered.
While many international managers continue to tinker with their selections in the hope of finding the best combination to take to Brazil, Albicelestes fans can relax somewhat in the knowledge that their side's lineup has been reasonably settled for some time now.
With the names becoming ever more predictable, there shouldn't be too much controversy when Sabella's final squad for the World Cup is announced, providing he sticks to his formula.
That will mean minimum distraction for Argentina and will enable them to focus their attentions on the task at hand.
Argentina Squad to Face Romania
Sergio Romero, Mariano Andujar, Hugo Campagnaro, Lisandro Lopez, Federico Fernandez, Gino Peruzzi, Pablo Zabaleta, Ezequiel Garay, Marcos Rojo, Jose Basanta, Nicolas Otamendi, Javier Mascherano, Jose Sosa, Angel Di Maria, Augusto Fernandez, Ricardo Alvarez, Lucas Biglia, Lionel Messi, Rodrigo Palacio, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, Ezequiel Lavezzi
With these four Argentina-based players likely to be added: Augustin Orion, Fernando Gago, Ever Banega and Maxi Rodriguez.