When €90 million centre forward Gonzalo Higuaín is not even making the squad, Argentina’s strength in attack couldn’t be clearer but the mouth-watering prospect of fielding Lionel Messi with Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi next week against Uruguay became even more tantalizing on Saturday as the Argentine trio scored seven goals.
Jorge Sampaoli’s starting eleven for the crunch World Cup qualifier in Montevideo isn’t known but Argentina couldn’t have three world class talents in better form going into the international break.
Paulo Dybala’s hat-trick saved Juventus from another potential shock defeat away to Genoa and the 23-year-old looks almost certain to take centre stage for Argentina.
Genoa had taken a two-goal lead inside seven minutes but Juve swiftly pulled a goal back as Dybala tucked away Miralem Pjanić’s low cross. The new number ten then equalised from the penalty spot after video technology spotted a handball and once Juan Cuadrado put the visitors in front, it was left to Dybala to complete the win and his first Serie A hat-trick.
Cutting inside onto his wand-like left foot, Dybala rifled in his third of the afternoon and will surely take the number ten role behind whoever Sampaoli hands the number nine shirt to for Argentina.
The only absolute guarantee in Sampaoli’s side is his captain Lionel Messi and despite missing an earlier penalty, the iconic forward struck twice to help Barcelona to a 2-0 win over Alaves.
In the process, Messi took his career LaLiga tally to 351, twelve years on from scoring his first as a seventeen-year-old and became only the second player to have score 350 goals in the top five European leagues, after the Bayern Munich’s legendary centre forward Gerd Müller.
Messi sigue haciendo historia en #LaLiga…
— LaLiga (@LaLiga) August 26, 2017
Messi failed to score in the 2-0 opening day win over Real Betis and saw his first-half penalty superbly saved by Fernando Pacheco but soon made amends, albeit with a slice of luck.
Barcelona’s opener came via Messi’s deflected effort and after some slack defending, the 30-year-old’s second was among his easiest.
Another record down in Spain, Argentina’s leading goal scorer will now be arriving in Buenos Aires hoping to add to his international tally when La Albiceleste take on Uruguay next Thursday.
The only remaining question is whether Sampaoli sticks with the more familiar Sergio Agüero or finally unleashes Mauro Icardi as Argentina’s number nine and if there was any doubt, the Inter striker served a timely reminder.
Following his brace on the opening day, Icardi showed just all his predatory instincts when scoring twice within a ten-minute second half spell to cancel out Edin Dzeko’s earlier opener for Roma.
The Giallorossi are supposed to be Juventus’ greatest rivals for the Serie A title and probably should have been more than a goal ahead when Icardi sprang into action.
Two penalty box finishes turned the game in Inter’s favour in the Stadio Olimpico before Matias Vecino made sure with a third and captain Icardi was buoyed by his side’s performance.
“It’s a good sign and we are doing well,” Icardi told reporters.
“We have good players, individually we are a very strong team but we are working to set up a group and play as a team, which is what we missed last year.”
The same could be said of Argentina for a number of years and hopefully Icardi will now be able to stake his claim to be the point at the tip of La Albiceleste’s potent attack.
“Now there’s an opportunity with Argentina. I have waited four years for this and I like it,” Icardi said at full time.
The vast majority of supporters seem to like the idea too and now is the time to prove it correct.