Given the level of anticipation there is no understating the disappointment with Argentina’s performances in this week’s World Cup qualifiers. The opening 45 minutes against Venezuela were a huge improvement on the goalless draw with Uruguay but unable to find the net, things soon descended back into the familiar chaos.
Jorge Sampaoli’s ideas clearly need time but who cemented their place in his plans and who might now be on the outside?
Sergio Romero – 5
A spectator for the vast majority of the game, Romero could do little when Venezuela broke and Jhon Murillo was left one-on-one.
Javier Mascherano – 5
An outstanding pass to Icardi in the opening minutes almost provided Javier Mascherano with a rare assist and while Argentina dominated possession and El Jefecito could push forward there was no issue. However, the 33-year-old gradually became less involved and was caught out by Venezuela’s counter.
Federico Fazio – 4
Favoured by Sampaoli for his aerial ability, Federico Fazio came into the side to combat Uruguay’s tactics but with very few high balls to contend with against Venezuela it was the Roma defender’s lack of pace that got exposed.
Nicolás Otamendi – 4.5
With very little to do for much of the game, Otamendi had a similar game to that of Javier Mascherano but made a couple of reckless challenges on the edge of the penalty box to gift Venezuela dangerous free kicks late on.
Guido Pizarro – 5
Guido Pizarro keeping his place in the starting eleven was a real show of faith from Sampaoli and in the opening 45 minutes, the former Lanús star repaid that. Neat in possession and a vital protecting role, Pizarro staked his claim for that role on a permanent basis but as the team lost its way, so too did El Conde’s passing.
Éver Banega – 4
The return of Éver Banega was supposed to push Lionel Messi further forward and take off the burden of creativity but the Sevilla midfielder produced one of his weakest performances in recent memory. Wasteful in possession and weak on the ball, Banega’s hesitancy saw him robbed and led to the Venezuelan goal on the counter.
Lautaro Acosta – 5
Despite lacking the star billing of most of his teammates, Lautaro Acosta started brightly and provided a genuine threat down the right. The Lanús forward’s final ball was perhaps lacking and but the under-20 World Cup winner worked hard even when having to fill in as an auxiliary full-back during moments of pressure in the second half.
Lionel Messi – 6
Once more if anyone was to provide Argentina with a spark it was Lionel Messi and while it was far from a memorable game from the captain, it wasn’t through a lack of trying. The impressive Wuilker Fariñez denied Messi from range in the first half but in the second, when Argentina lost all composure, it was still the Barcelona icon demanding the ball and trying to generate momentum.
Paulo Dybala – 4
If these two qualifiers proved anything it is that the Messi-Dybala partnership will require time. So often the inspiration for Juventus, the youngster looked lost at times in an Argentina shirt – unsure what role he was playing or even where to be on the pitch.
Ángel Di María – 6
In the 24 minutes that Ángel Di María managed before limping off injured, the frustrating wideman had actually looked very threatening. After his dismal performance against Uruguay it was a great response but sadly cut short.
Mauro Icardi – 5
While Mauro Icardi was barely involved against Uruguay, the Inter striker was at the heart of the action on Tuesday and on another night could have had a hat-trick. Excellent movement and a decent understanding of the team, with a little more luck Icardi would have opened his account. An own goal robbed the centre forward of that but he was in the right place and could arguably have won a penalty too.
Marcos Acuña – 6
Highly industrious and a far better fit out on the left than he looked on the opposite flank against Uruguay. Acuña provided decent width and tried to get as much supply into the penalty area as possible – the former Racing midfielder’s burst created the goal and didn’t do his future chances any harm.
Darío Benedetto – 4
Darío Benedetto would have dreamed of a different Argentina debut but entered when Argentina had lost control and as a result failed to get involved. The one opportunity that did come the Boca striker’s way, rolled out of a play after a horribly heavy touch.
Javier Pastore – 3
Despite only featuring for fifteen minutes it was a pretty dreadful cameo by Javier Pastore, who will have done little to persuade Sampaoli that he could resolve the issues in Argentina’s midfield. After giving away possession on a number of occasions, the PSG man had a chance to win but saw his effort blocked by Fariñez.