Could Palacio Be a Viable Alternative to Higuain in Argentina's Starting XI?

Dan ColasimoneContributor IJune 4, 2014

Argentina's Rodrigo Palacio, right, vies for the ball with Trinidad and Tobago's Sheldon Bateau during their international friendly soccer match in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, June 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

Argentina downed Trinidad and Tobago, 3-0, in their penultimate warm-up match before the World Cup on Wednesday, with Rodrigo Palacio being one of the best performers on the pitch.

The Inter man had come in as a late replacement for Gonzalo Higuain, who was suffering from a minor injury concern, and may have done enough to have coach Alejandro Sabella at least thinking about using him from the start once the World Cup is underway.

Sabella has long made it clear that his preferred front three consists of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Higuain, as those players have consistently been chosen up top whenever they are fit.

Palacio's bright showing against the Caribbean team underlines his importance as a backup, however, and could see him in contention for a starting spot, assuming he can recover quickly from an ankle sprain he suffered late on in the match.

The 32-year-old has retained the blistering pace of his youth, and he demonstrated again on Wednesday that he is intelligent in his movements around the pitch and a quick thinker when participating in counter-attacks.

Palacio scored Argentina's first goal when he headed in a Messi corner, then set up the third after beating the offside trap before cutting the ball back from the byline to assist Maxi Rodriguez.

Higuain scores the first kind of goal regularly but would probably not have been quick enough to pull off the second manoeuvre. 

That is not to say that Palacio is the better striker, of course, but when it comes to speed and mobility he holds a slight advantage over the Napoli player.

Higuain has rightfully earned his place in the Argentina lineup, though, and his goalscoring record indicates he deserves to be there.

He has 21 international goals to his name with 21 goals in just 36 appearances, including four strikes in the 2010 World Cup.

He also offers something different to the other attackers in the trident. While Messi and Aguero are small, skillful and nimble, Higuain acts more as a point of reference—someone to hold the ball up with his back to goal or a target to aim for when crosses are sent into the box.

That explains the logic in picking him ahead of the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Carlos Tevez and Palacio, though, the latter's showing against Trinidad and Tobago proves he is not a bad target man either.

Sabella has something to ponder, at least, and even if Higuain is still first choice in Brazil, Palacio is in with a shot of starting in certain matches where his particular set of skills can do the most damage.