Selecting an Argentina XI from World Cup Absentees
Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano, Pablo Zabaleta. The talent that Argentina will have on display at the 2014 World Cup is awe-inspiring. Coach Alejandro Sabella named a strong preliminary squad of 30, which will try and break a 28-year drought in the competition starting next month.
The list certainly looks daunting for opponents, but could it have been even stronger? Inevitably, with a team with so many options, there were plenty of players left at home that could also have left their mark in Brazil.
The best of those absent from Sabella's call-ups are brought together here, in a hypothetical best team the Albiceleste could put on the pitch. There are plenty of names that should be instantly familiar to any football fan.
Although he had not been named in a single squad by Sabella, it was still a surprise of sorts to see Willy Caballero left out in the cold. The Malaga keeper has been without a doubt the best Argentine No. 1 in Europe over the last two years, but the coach's faith in Sergio Romero held fast in the end.
Behind him, there were plenty of local candidates to go to Brazil. River Plate's Marcelo Barovero, Racing Club's Sebastian Saja and Agustin Marchesin of Lanus are the best of a promising group of Primera Division shot-stoppers.
Ever since Diego Maradona's kamikaze tactics took hold in the Seleccion, and possibly even before that, the Argentine defence has had a large question mark next to it. The appearance of Martin Demichelis and Gabriel Mercado in the preliminary list caused murmurs, but were there better options?
Sevilla's Federico Fazio was pushed hard as an alternative at centre-back, but he was never picked by Sabella. Fabricio Coloccini was selected, but he failed to convince the coach of his obvious talents. Talents such as Mateo Musacchio, Gonzalo Rodriguez and Facundo Roncaglia were also overlooked.
Outside the central pair, even at 40, Javier Zanetti is a logical choice for both right-back and captain of this team. Deputising is Gino Peruzzi, surprisingly left out of the list in favour of Mercado.
On the other side, Cristian Ansaldi holds off competition from Lucas Orban and Newell's full-back Milton Casco to take the No. 3 jersey.
The Albiceleste selectors were careful in calling up an array of midfield options in the preliminary list. With doubts over Di Maria and Fernando Gago's fitness persisting, there is at least strength in depth available to Sabella when he reduces the squad down to 23.
A few men on the outside, however, have the right to feel aggrieved. Esteban Cambiasso is the most high-profile player missing, while Nicolas Gaitan has also been in electric form, and his absence from the final 30 was a big shock.
While not in the best of form, Tottenham's Erik Lamela would have been disappointed he did not receive a wink from Sabella, too. Claudio Yacob has won many admirers since moving to the Premier League, while Javier Pastore was not considered after going to South Africa in 2010.
On the home front, young talents such as Lucas Romero of Velez and River Plate's Matias Kranevitter were also tipped for a place, only to see their hopes thwarted.
Upfront, Argentina arguably have the best array of attacking talent in any country. That strength in depth is summed up by the quality of players left behind.
This team will use a typical Argentine forward setup. A No. 10 Enganche, or playmaker, behind two strikers, a more traditional centre-forward and another more mobile attacker happy to work outside the box. For this role, high-profile Albiceleste reject Carlos Tevez is the logical choice.
The fight for the No. 9 jersey is a tough one. Mauro Icardi has been in excellent form for his age since breaking through at Sampdoria, although his off-field exploits seem to have taken his eye off the ball somewhat after getting called up by Sabella at the end of 2013.
Benfica's Eduardo Salvio was unlucky to miss out, while veteran Diego Milito and German Denis of Atalanta are further options behind the strikers called up.
Behind them, there is only one name worth picking: the master himself, Juan Roman Riquelme.
The Full Starting Line-Up
Zanetti Coloccini Fazio Ansaldi
Cambiasso Gaitan Lamela
Barovero, Musacchio, Peruzzi, Yacob, Pastore, Salvio, Denis
Anybody missing from this team who should make the cut? How far could this line-up go in the 2014 World Cup? Let us know below in the comments section.