Between the chaos at the Argentine Football Association, Gerardo Martino leaving his post as coach and several clubs refusing permission for players to participate, Argentina’s Olympic preparation has been far from ideal.
Julio Olarticoechea was eventually placed in the hot seat to lead the under-23 squad in Rio de Janeiro and his understrength but still talented 18-man group took shape.
If you want a reminder of who is in that squad, then click here.
The first step before their Olympic opener against Portugal on August 4th is on Thursday evening at the University of Florida, when La Albiceleste face Colombia in a warm-up match before final friendlies with Haiti on Sunday and México on Thursday July 28th.
Olarticoechea has had little time to work with the players but it is understood that he has more or less his first choice eleven ready.
Argentina probable XI: Gerónimo Rulli; José Luis Gómez, Lautaro Gianetti, Víctor Cuesta, Alexis Soto; Santiago Ascacibar, Mauricio Martínez, Lucas Romero or Giovanni Lo Celso; Ángel Correa, Manuel Lanzini; Jonathan Calleri
The one question mark appears to be in midfield where Olarticoechea is yet to decide between Cruzeiro’s Lucas Romero or recent Paris Saint Germain signing Giovanni Lo Celso.
Certainly the Rosario Central playmaker would provide a great deal more creativity in a midfield three that already has two defensive number fives in Santiago Ascacibar and Mauricio Martínez.
The attacking trident of Manuel Lanzini, Ángel Correa and Jonathan Calleri should trouble the majority of defences in Rio and given those players that were made unavailable, appears a relatively straight forward decision.
However, just as is the case at senior level, Argentina appear a little top heavy and so Colombia’s experienced attack of Teo Gutiérrez and Dorlan Pabón should provide a stern test for an experimental back four.
Independiente defender Víctor Cuesta and goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli, Argentina’s captain and vice-captain respectively, bring a significant amount more experience to the back line and will need to support their young understudies.
Vélez’s Lautaro Gianetti appears in pole to partner Cuesta in the centre at this point but Olarticoechea will no doubt take a closer look at Lisandro Magallán in the coming games while both full backs, José Luis Gómez and Alexis Soto still must prove their defensive credentials.
Colombia probable XI: Cristian Bonilla; Helibelton Palacios, Cristian Borja, William Tesillo, Deiver Machado; Wilmar Barrios, Andrés Roa, Jefferson Lerma, Jarlan Barrera; Teófilo Gutiérrez, Dorlan Pabón