Predicting the Argentina Squad 60 Days from the 2014 World Cup
The World Cup is slowly but surely approaching. In just 60 days, Argentina will be hoping to end a run of 28 years without lifting football's most important trophy in Brazil.
But who will be decked in the nation's famous blue and white stripes, ready to lead the nation to possible glory in the homeland of their arch-rivals?
Although there are still two months for players to make their case for selection, the list appears almost complete. Here are the 23 players likely to make the plane, alongside those still holding out hope and the men now resigned to watching the tournament from the comfort of their own homes.
Out of Contention
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella has been nothing if not consistent when referring to his squad selection. The principal theme, as he explained to a press conference covered by Pagina 12, is that there will be no surprises come the announcement of the men he will lead to Brazil.
That has major ramifications for two men out in the cold, including one Carlos Tevez.
The Juventus striker has been in fine form, but is not favoured by the coach and has not figured in the Argentina set-up since 2011. A return at this point would be highly unlikely.
Equally so for goalkeeper Willy Caballero. The Malaga No. 1 has gained some excellent reviews in Spain for his shot-stopping abilities, but he has not featured in Sabella's plans and time appears to have run out for the imposing goalkeeper.
Although the Argentina squad looks almost set in stone two months ahead of the big kick-off, there is still the potential for surprise. In defence and in midfield, competition for places continues.
Newcastle United's Fabricio Coloccini has missed several chances to stake a claim for a regular spot due to injury over the last few years. Nevertheless, he is a proven talent with World Cup experience and could look to muscle his way in as an alternative in the centre of defence.
Benfica youngster Lisandro Lopez and Catania's Gerardo Peruzzi are further down the pecking order, but still in with a chance.
Further up the field, there are several men still hoping to push their way in. Augusto Fernandez and Ricky Alvarez are well known to Sabella from his time in domestic football, and have featured regularly on the squad fringes.
In attack, the World Cup may have arrived a little early for Inter prospect Mauro Icardi. However, the youngster is a massive talent, and if the coach opts for an uncharacteristic gamble Icardi could make a similar impact to the one made by Gonzalo Higuain in South Africa four years ago.
Sabella has been nothing if not consistent when picking the man between the posts. Monaco back-up Sergio Romero has kept his place in the team despite long spells of inactivity, and it would be a shock of monumental proportions if the coach lost faith in Chiquito so close to the World Cup.
In his back-up choices, the trainer has equally kept faith with two names he knows well from club level.
Mariano Andujar and Agustin Orion, both former charges of Sabella during his successful period at Estudiantes, have figured in his squads from the beginning and look certain to deputise for Romero in Brazil 2014.
The position of full-back is one of the most keenly contested and most disputed in the entire Argentina line-up. For that reason, Sabella is likely to give himself plenty of options in Brazil.
Pablo Zabaleta on the right and Marcos Rojo on the left is the coach's favourite formula, but questions still remain over his former protege and current Sporting player. For that reason, Jose Basanta could be drafted in on the left, or—in the case of the Manchester City man Zabaleta switching flanks—Hugo Campagnaro is present as a right-back alternative.
In the centre, the panorama is a little clearer. Ezequiel Garay and Federico Fernandez are well-established as the first-choice pairing. In their absence, the likes of Campagnaro, Basanta or possibly Nicolas Otamendi will be expected to deputise.
It isn't likely that there'll be many great surprises in the naming of Argentina's midfield contingent. One of the first names on the team-sheet, and for good reason, is of course Barcelona's tenacious anchorman Javier Mascherano.
Outside Masche, a fit Fernando Gago and Angel Di Maria complete the habitual trio in the middle. Lucas Biglia, Ever Banega and most likely Erik Lamela are like-for-like switches, and will probably make the cut behind those starters.
The contingent is completed by Sabella favourite Jose Sosa. The under-rated Atletico Madrid and former Estudiantes star gives versatility to the line-up, and he will be utilised if the Albiceleste switch to a four-man midfield.
The Argentine forward line will be based around three of the finest talents in world football. In Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, the Albiceleste have the ability to unsew the tightest international defences.
Encouragingly for Sabella, the men just behind that potent trio are also attackers of the highest quality.
The versatile workhorse Ezequiel Lavezzi can slot in to any of the three forward positions, and is valued for his sacrifice as well as talent. Rodrigo Palacio gives a more cerebral option, while Maxi Rodriguez can cover both midfield and attack.
Predicted Argentina Squad for 2014 World Cup
Jose Luis Basanta
Angel Di Maria