Despite the dreadful performances earlier this month that saw Argentina draw with Peru and lose at home to Paraguay, Edgardo Bauza is relying on the talents of Lionel Messi to turn things around when La Albiceleste face Brazil and Colombia in November. In the face of criticism surrounding the selection of a group of players now referred to as ‘Messi’s friends’, the Argentina coach selected a 26-man squad of few surprises.
Sergio Agüero and Angel Di María both endured poor performances and hinted that they would at least understand should Bauza decide not to select them but instead it is Erik Lamela, Matías Kranevitter, Marcos Rojo and Mariano Andújar who make way.
In their place are four new additions and while Gerónimo Rulli and Enzo Pérez are no strangers to the squad, Julio Buffarini and Marcos Acuña are less familiar.
Attacking right-back Buffarini, who plays his football in Brazil with São Paulo, knows Bauza well from their time together at San Lorenzo and while the 28-year-old may not be a long term solution he will provide a natural width and pace to the side that has otherwise been lacking.
While Buffarini has been looked at by Alejandro Sabella and Gerardo Martino previously, Marcos Acuña’s inclusion is a reward for his outstanding recent form with Racing. The 24-year-old’s energetic displays have resulted in a direct hand in a huge percentage of La Academia’s goals this season and El Huevo should provide competition for Di María.
Bauza mentioned prior to naming his squad about the need to look at some different types of option in the midfield in response to two abject performances in the middle of the pitch. The recall for Valencia’s Enzo Pérez appears shrewd given the dearth of players capable of playing in a box-to-box role but it is unclear how Argentina will line up in Belo Horizonte on November 10th.
Given the similarity with the previous squad, Argentina will presumably name an eleven almost identical to the previous matches except with Lionel Messi reclaiming his place in the side. Such is the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s influence (Argentina have won all three World qualifiers he has played) that may well be enough but it would only paper over the cracks.
Bauza could have shaken things up a little more and tried to bring in a couple more younger players to gain experience but has instead felt safer going with the much the same group for the huge clasico against Brazil. Such a critical double-header was perhaps not the best time to introduce inexperience but should Argentina’s result not be positive in November, El Patón will feel the heat.
Defenders: Martin Demichelis (Espanyol), Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal), Nicolás Otamendi (Manchester City), Ramiro Funes Mori (Everton), Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla), Facundo Roncaglia (Celta de Vigo), Emanuel Mas (San Lorenzo), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Julio Buffarini (São Pablo)
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Guido Pizarro (Tigres Mexico), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Ever Banega (Inter Milan), Enzo Pérez (Valencia), Nicolás Gaitán (Atlético Madrid), Angel Di María (Paris Saint-Germain), Marcos Acuña (Racing)