The draw for the 2016 Olympics games football tournament took place this week in the Maracanã stadium and Argentina learned the identities of their group D rivals. La Albiceleste will face Honduras, Algeria and Portugal in the first stage and now it is left for Gerardo Martino to select his 18-man squad. The Argentina coach appeared to confirm that Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori would be one of his over-23 players and he is likely to be joined by West Ham United midfielder Manuel Lanzini.
Argentina will begin their Olympic campaign on August 4th against Portugal at the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro and while there are still rumours circulating that Cristiano Ronaldo may be among the Portuguese squad, we already know that his domestic rival, Lionel Messi will not lining up against him.
On August 7th in the same stadium Argentina will face Algeria before concluding the group against Honduras in Brasília. While the group may not look too difficult a pairing with group C would see a potential quarter-final tie against probably either Germany or Mexico.
Gerardo Martino is yet to reveal his squads for both the Copa América or the Olympics but the 53-year-old does appear to have given some creedance to the suggestions that his three over-23 players would be Ramiro Funes Mori, Gerónimo Rulli and Mateo Musacchio. Speaking to Radio Continental Martino admitted: “We are thinking about (Ramiro) Funes Mori for the Games (Olympic). We have to see if Everton will allow this but we wish that he plays in the two competitions.”
Newspaper reports in Argentina suggest this has been confirmed with Everton and that Martino has also spoken with West Ham to confirm the participation of Manuel Lanzini.
On Monday the AFA must submit a list of 50 names for nothing more than pre-registration and this will obviously include a huge number of players who stand virtually no chance of going to Brazil, for example Tallares de Córdoba striker Nazareno Solís. By June 1st FIFA then require this to be cut to 35 before the final selection of 18 plus four stand-bys is made.
This group of four is likely to be made up of players from the Argentine Primera and La Nación cite Cristian Pavón (Boca), Iván Rossi (Banfield) and Santiago Ascacibar (Estudiantes) as possible names.
The same source suggests that Martino will be looking to use a 4-2-3-1 formation with his Olympic side and that his over-23 selections will form the base of this with Rulli in goal, behind a central defensive pairing of Funes Mori and Musacchio.
Sitting in front of the defence it appears Martino is keen on using Matías Kranevitter, despite taking him as a squad member to the Copa América, and pairing him with Empoli midfielder Leandro Paredes. The former Boca 21-year-old was singled out by the Argentina coach in a recent interview when he admitted he has been keeping a close eye on his development in Italy.
This would leave a front four potentially of Ángel Correa, Manuel Lanzini and Cristian Espinoza behind a central striker, potentially Paulo Dybala. Martino has admitted that Dybala is one of the options available to him: “There is (Paulo) Dybala, (Luciano) Vietto, (Mauro) Icardi and (Jonathan) Calleri. The fight is difficult because only two will be selected.”
The other two names who could play in that midfield three and seem close to the squad are Sampdoria’s Joaquín Correa and Rosario Central’s Giovani Lo Celso. With only a squad of 18 to select, competition is fierce and it will be interesting to see who Martino opts for this summer in both tournaments. The Olympics will give a good indication of who Martino has faith in leading Argentina into the future.