by Daniel Fraiz-Martinez || @DanielFMPro
Argentina’s recent record in major finals is a well-publicised and bitter, kryptonite of sorts for coaches, players and fans alike.
Nonetheless an equally painful weight on the shoulders of the “La Albiceleste” family is the fact that from the seven consecutive losses, the last four have come without managing to score a single goal.
That’s a grand total of 475 minutes without finding the back of the net, the last such being Pablo Aimar’s consolation strike against Brazil in the Confederations Cup… over a decade ago back in 2005.
Despite the abundance of attacking talent at their disposal. When it comes to the decisive moment, the high profile, glaring misses in Argentina jersey, and by the now (in)famous culprit(s), are unfortunately just as memorialised as the defeats themselves.
A fundamental problem? Indisputably so. Albeit step forward the possible solution: Lucas “El Flaco” Alario – The man for the big occasions.
A “Menottista”… of Sorts
Lucas Nicolás Alario – October 8th 1992, Santa Fe, Argentina – Has become almost the archetypal “man for the big occasions” since arriving at Argentine giants River Plate from Colón back in the summer of 2015.
Somewhat of a comparatively late bloomer in the domestic football landscape, Alario arrived at River at 22 years of age, and as rumour has it by the way of a recommendation from Argentina’s World Cup winning coach César Luis Menotti.
Having signed off with hometown club Club Atlético Colón by scoring the crucial penalty that got them promoted back to the Primera División, “El Flaco” as he is commonly known owing to his tall, yet gangly build, has wasted little time in what has been a meteoric journey to a debut call-up in Edgardo Bauza’s first selection as Argentina’s National team manager.
Since arriving at El Monumental, Alario has not only been a prolific scorer (averaging better than a goal every other games) but also a player who has found the net with unnerving regularity in his sides highest profile fixtures.
In River Plate’s triumphant 2015 Copa Libertadores campaign, he scored in both the semi-final against Guaraní, but also the crucial goal in the final against Tigres UANL, ensuring “Los Millonarios” long wait for continental success was finally over.
Not content with this and despite entering tournament not fully fit after a serious shoulder injury, Alario would again find the back of the net in the semi’s of the FIFA Club World Cup of the same year against the hosts Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Although he would not find the back of the net this time, in the final against a hugely superior FC Barcelona side. Alario would not have to wait too long to put his mark on another final, scoring with yet another towering header in the South American Cup winners Cup final against Colombia’s Independiente Santa Fe, adding yet another “conquest” and winners medal, barely days before joining up with is new international teammates.
Big Name, or Big Game?
So while the queue of strikers theoretically ahead of Alario for a place in the Argentina forward line reads like a who’s who of World Football, there is undoubtedly a case for the fact that at least some have had their chance(s) at backing this up on the big occasions, yet sadly failed.
Equally there is case to be had for saying Argentina’s last World Cup triumph back in 1986 was arguably built on the success of seemingly more modest, yet specific player selections.
Lucas Alario may not be headlining in Europe… yet, as River have already rebuffed offers from the likes of Internazionale, Tottenham, and Liverpool. However, the forward does looks like he will be in line to make his debut in the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers either against Uruguay or Venezuela. In particular given Sergio Agüero’s late injury making him one of only two recognised “No.9’s”.
And if nothing else Lucas Alario’s recent form has at least made enough of a case for his new international boss to question: is he looking for Big name, or Big game?
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