Argentina player ratings vs Haiti: Messi still the shining light but Pavón & Agüero impress off the bench

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Not much could be garnered from Argentina’s comfortable 4-0 win over the limited opposition that Haiti offered at La Bombonera on Tuesday but as ever Lionel Messi was the inspiration. Despite being comfortable throughout, La Albiceleste improved after a couple of second half substitutions and both should enter Jorge Sampaoli’s mind regarding his World Cup starting eleven.

Willy Caballero – 5

Is Caballero now Argentina’s first choice goalkeeper? Well, Haiti didn’t progress the conversation given a traffic cone could just as easily have replaced the Chelsea number two.

Eduardo Salvio – 7

As baptisms go in an unfamiliar position Haiti was about as easy as they come so Eduardo Salvio was able to basically play his usual game of bombing down the right looking to create. Some decent moments and a dangerous cross for Higuaín showed what the Benfica winger can do offensively but all the question marks are about his ability going the other way and in this regard we learned nothing.

Nicolás Otamendi – 6

Nothing really to do for Nicolás Otamendi as the game was almost exclusively played in the opposition half.

Federico Fazio – 5

Much the same as Otamendi but Federico Fazio was guilty of one error during the first half which against stronger opposition could have been more dangerous.

Nicolás Tagliafico – 7

Unquestionably now Argentina’s best option at left-back, Nicolás Tagliafico has shown his defensive qualities either at full-back or in central defence for Independiente but with little to occupy him against Haiti, the Ajax defender was able to show off his attacking prowess. A slightly wild finish wasted a good opportunity in the first half but the fact that Tagliafico was breaking through on goal showed how willing he was to assist the attack.

Javier Mascherano – 6.5

A record breaking night for Javier Mascherano and one of his better performances of late. The quality of the opposition has to be taken into account but El Jefecito produced a couple of excellent lofted passes over the top of the Haiti defence and made some decent tackles in the centre.

Giovani Lo Celso – 8

Giovani Lo Celso has likely played his way into Jorge Sampaoli’s starting eleven after another impressive display carrying out the problematic linking role in midfield that Argentina have struggled with since the absence of Fernando Gago. Winning the penalty with a burst into the box and helping with the second goal after it was his header saved, Lo Celso was tidy in possession, linked well with Messi and Mascherano and always looked to move the ball forward.

Manuel Lanzini – 6.5

Some neat touches from Manuel Lanzini and a hand in Messi’s second but it wasn’t quite the performance that Jorge Sampaoli would have hoped for. Argentina needed the West Ham midfielder a little more involved as it perhaps would have lessened the load on Messi but when Lanzini did get on the ball, there was good link-up play. Di María volleyed wide after one nice passage and the former River star, slipped in Higuaín for the cross prior to the second goal.

Lionel Messi – 9

It was hardly vintage Messi and the Argentina captain won’t score a more straight-forward hat-trick but with the goals and his teammates constantly looking for inspiration it was another decisive display. Still having to drop deep to pick up the ball whenever Argentina looked like creating anything it was through Messi.

Ángel Di María – 5

Dangerous during the first half it was an all too familiar story for Ángel Di María with a couple of wasted chances and a few misplaced passes. El Fideo is still likely to be Sampaoli’s first choice left-sided forward and his pace and familiarity with Messi makes him a threat but frustratingly the most isn’t made of this.

Gonzalo Higuaín – 4.5

A wasted opportunity for Gonzalo Higuaín to stake a claim to be Argentina’s number nine and get some goals under his belt before the World Cup. Goalkeeper Johny Placide twice denied the Juventus centre forward but the difference in his overall contribution was made all the more clear when Sergio Agüero was introduced.

Substitutes

Marcos Rojo – 5

Useful minutes for Marcos Rojo after replacing Federico Fazio at half time but hardly much of a test with so little to do.

Cristian Pavón – 7

A superb assist for Lionel Messi’s hat-trick goal, Cristian Pavón was thought to be a dangerous substitute with his pace off the bench but the Boca youngster is now a serious candidate for Ángel Di María’s place in the starting eleven.

Sergio Agüero – 7

Within ten minutes of his arrival, Sergio Agüero looked a far better fit in Jorge Sampaoli’s side and aside from linking up with Messi and Pavón well, the Manchester City striker latched onto one of Messi’s through-balls to slot in Argentina’s fourth. Agüero and Messi very nearly repeated the trick soon after but there should be little doubt now who is Argentina’s best number nine.

Maxi Meza – 6

A hand in the build-up to Argentina’s fourth goal, Maxi Meza didn’t offer much else but was tidy in possession and continues to be a useful squad option available to Sampaoli.

Ever Banega – 6

A brief cameo for Ever Banega but enough to see flashes of his good relationship with Messi. If Banega could string performances together his place in the midfield would be certain but Lo Celso has put that in question.

Marcos Acuña – 5

A late replacement for Nicolás Tagliafico at left-back, Marcos Acuña is surely now just a back-up, albeit more attacking option in the position. El Huevo’s versatility and work rate could see him contribute in a number of different roles.

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