The Future of the Argentina National Team Lies With River Plate
After every World Cup, 31 national teams scramble with looking to the future, trying to predict what players will take the field for the next major international showcase.
Four years ago, Gonzalo Higuain was barely getting started at River Plate, while Angel Di Maria and Nicolas Otamendi were virtually own known, yet all three were integral parts of Argentina's run to the quarterfinals in South Africa.
Although it is practically impossible to predict what players will suit up for Argentina in Brazil 2014, it would be wise to bet that should any youngsters break into an already deep squad, they are currently on the books at River Plate.
The Buenos Aires giants are currently co-leaders of the 2010 Apertura, and have achieved early season success largely thanks to the goals from Rogelio Funes Mori, a 19 year old striker who debuted in the first division in December of 2009.
Now, less than a year later he is one of the protagonists of a River Plate team that is playing some good football after years of underachieving.
After scoring his first goal against Tigre in 2009, Funes Mori was billed for big things in the 2010 Clausura, but there was a sense that it all came too fast for the Mendoza native. He was guilty of missing a number of clear chances, including three one on one situations against Boca Juniors.
Then, in the second to last round of the tournament, "FM9" exploded with a hattrick as River defeated Racing Club 3-1 in Avellaneda.
Since then, Funes Mori has not stopped scoring, and yesterday he was on target yet again as he headed Ariel Ortega's corner past Cristian Campestrini in the Arsenal net to hand River a 1-0 victory.
He possess great technique when heading the ball, and has a knack to be in the right place at the right time, much in the way Crespo popped up at key moments throughout his storied career. He also has the technical ability to go out wide and link up with his more creative teammates.
Top European clubs have especially been interested, with Juventus and Napoli heavily tracking the youngster, although RIver president Daniel Passarella has made it clear he has no intention of selling the prospect at the present time.
Rogelio also has a twin brother named Ramiro, who is a centerback. Although he has not yet made his debut, he was one of the sparring players to go with the full national team to South Africa over the summer.
Ramiro, like Rogelio, has been a fixture of the Under 20 side of the past year or so.
In addition to Funes Mori, 17 year old Manuel Lanzini has been making major splashes in Nuñez, arriving on the scene out of no where to be one of coach Angel Cappa's most important playmakers.
During River's 3-2 win over rival Independiente last month, Lanzini was instrumental, pulling the strings and contributing a wonderful assist on Funes Mori's second goal.
Sadly, Lanzini pulled a hamstring muscle and will be out of action for three weeks, but the phenom who has been compared to Lionel Messi and Pablo Aimar, is already being tracked by National Team coach Sergio Batista, who certainly has him in mind for the South America Under 20 Championships set to take place at the beginning of next year in Peru.
Although both youngsters have been impressive so far, perhaps the most interesting prospect is 18 year old playmaker Erik Lamela, whom FC Barcelona desperately wanted to buy when he was only 12 years old.
After holding onto him, Lamela has risen through the ranks of the famous River Plate youth system, and yesterday made just his third appearance in the first division.
Although he has not yet started a match, he is already on the radar of most major European clubs, with Real Madrid and Barcelona the two most likely to swoop in for the kid, although once again, it is unlikely that Passarella will allow Lamela to leave before he has contributed much more to River Plate.
Right now, the rage is all about Carlos Tevez, Lionel Messi, and Gonzalo Higuain, but who is to say that in 2014, Funes Mori, Lanzini, and Lamela will not be in the starting XI?
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