Gerardo Martino has announced his 23-man squad for his summer’s Copa América Centenario and although it is a familiar group of players led by captain Lionel Messi, there are a few notable surprises.
Argentina’s attacking three of Lionel Messi, Ángel Di María and one of Gonzalo Higuaín or Sergio Agüero is pretty settled but the other striking options were up for debate and Martino has surprised many by excluding Carlos Tevez and more importantly Paulo Dybala.
Dybala’s absence along with Ángel Correa, Gerónimo Rulli and Mateo Musacchio all but confirms that all four will be in the Olympic squad.
However, this group would undoubtedly strengthen the squad that will travel to the United States. Ezequiel Lavezzi, for example, is still included despite moving to play in China in January and it being assumed that his days with the national team were numbered.
The midfield is more or less as expected but perhaps as usual it is defensively where most eyebrows will be raised. Injuries to Pablo Zabaleta and Leonel Vangioni denied Martino of two options and he has reponded with the call-ups of Independiente’s Víctor Cuesta and River Plate’s Jonathan Maidana.
Ezequiel Garay remains frozen out by Martino despite perhaps being Argentina’s best defender and so La Albiceleste will clearly stick with the first-choice pairing of Nicolás Otamendi and Ramiro Funes Mori.
The real issue is still at full back where Argentina fail to have any natural players in these positions, and certainly those two new faces do not fit the bill. Marcos Rojo, Gabriel Mercado and Facundo Roncaglia are all defenders who can also play centrally and are not at their most comfortable going forward.
The Olympic games have of course impacted on Argentina’s Copa América squad but it is difficult to look at this 23 and feel it’s the strongest group that Martino could have taken.