Ahead of a critical week in World Cup qualification, Argentina’s squad have begun to assemble in Buenos Aires and on Sunday evening, Jorge Sampaoli added an additional four domestic players to his initial 23-man squad.
Boca Juniors striker and last season’s Primera top scorer Darío Benedetto received his first international call-up and was joined by River Plate defender Javier Pinola, Lanús forward Lautaro Acosta and Independiente’s 21-year-old full back Fabricio Bustos.
These four will join up with the 23 European-based players at the training complex in Ezeiza on Monday ahead of Thursday’s clash with Uruguay in Montevideo and the home game against Venezuela, the following Tuesday.
Boca midfielder Pablo Pérez is understood to be on stand-by in case any of the existing squad are forced to pull out through injury.
Javier Pinola has been included in a number of recent squads, having proved himself as one of the best defenders in Argentina’s top flight and demonstrating the versatility to play centrally or at left-back while Lautaro Acosta has also been on the fringes of the squad for sometime after his consistent displays for Lanús. The 29-year-old forward will be reuniting with a number of his under-20 teammates that lifted the World Cup in 2007.
However, Benedetto and Bustos are new additions to the group and few who have watched the Argentine Primera in the past year would disagree.
27-year-old Benedetto is something of a late-bloomer having not yet made the move to Europe but after scoring 21 goals in 24 appearances as Boca Juniors lifted the Primera title, that seems only a matter of time.
The inconsistencies that led to peaks and troughs in his form throughout his earlier career with Arsenal, Tijuana or Club América appear to become a thing of the past since moving to La Bombonera and as a number nine capable of scoring all types of goals, Benedetto is a useful addition to Sampaoli’s squad.
Given his goal scoring record, Benedetto’s call-up, in favour of River Plate’s Lucas Alario, comes as no great surprise but Sampaoli’s decision to include full-back Fabricio Bustos is somewhat unexpected.
The 21-year-old has been a revelation since being elevated into Independiente’s first team and after only nineteen first team appearances, the youngster is now part of the Argentina squad.
Obviously impressed by Bustos’ energetic and dynamic displays bursting down the right for El Rojo, Sampaoli and his assistant Sebastián Beccacece met with the Cordobés full-back last week to discuss tactics and watch videos as they have done with a great number of players in Europe but while many thought this was with a view to the future, Bustos has got the nod over José Luis Gómez.
With a distinct lack of natural full-backs in the 27-man squad, Bustos may take a far more significant role in the group but that will become clearer as Sampaoli takes charge of his training sessions this week.