A week of tuning-up for Argentina turned into further fears of Messi-dependency and even more doubts about the backline and Gonzalo Higuain
Jorge Sampaoli was supposed to be using this international break to finalise his plans for his World Cup but the shoots of optimism that began to sprout after the victory over Italy were completely destroyed by a record-equalling 6-1 mauling at the hands of Spain.
Argentina supporters might be struggling to find any positives after the defeat to Spain so perhaps it is understandable that the biggest winner from the international break was one of the players who missed it, Manuel Lanzini.
Jorge Sampaoli talked up the West Ham midfielder in the build-up to the Italy game and despite not being able to pair Lanzini with Lionel Messi, the River Plate product impressed at the Etihad. Some smart passing and a superbly taken goal capped off a great performance and one that likely sealed the 25-year-old’s place in Russia.
Lanzini’s knee injury saved him from the Spain spanking and you could argue that even those not included in the squad, like Mauro Icardi and Paulo Dybala were beneficiaries, given that no one really took their chances but there were perhaps a couple of other glimmers of hope.