After a disastrous World Cup, Jorge Sampaoli’s departure and the AFA’s wait to name a permanent successor, September’s friendlies against Guatemala and Colombia are a bit of a free swing for caretaker Lionel Scaloni and his assistant Pablo Aimar.
Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia hung up their international boots, Lionel Messi asked for some time off and a host of other names from the generation of three consecutive final defeats have been left out. So Scaloni, just back from lifting the COTIF tournament in Spain has been able to name a youthful, experimental squad under relatively little pressure.
Only nine from Russia and veteran goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who missed out on the World Cup through injury, remain and additionally there are number of those players that were eventually overlooked by Sampaoli like Mauro Icardi, Leandro Paredes, Lautaro Martínez and Fabricio Bustos.
#SelecciónMayor Lionel Scaloni dio a conocer la lista de convocados para enfrentar a Guatemala y Colombia en Estados Unidos. pic.twitter.com/yivZX2KZ37
— Selección Argentina 🇦🇷 (@Argentina) August 17, 2018
There are maiden call-ups for European-based players like Giovanni Simeone, Santiago Ascacibar and Franco Cervi while Ángel Correa, Germán Pezzella and Ramiro Funes Mori are handed recalls.
However, among the 29-man squad there are six South American-based players set for debuts who may be unfamiliar to many.
Walter Kannemann – Grêmio
An overdue call-up for two-time Copa Libertadores winner Walter Kannemann, the powerful, no nonsense defender brings a wealth of South American experience and a strong winning mentality that has often been lacking in the Argentina squad in recent years.
Given the dearth of defensive options, La Albiceleste overlooking Kannemann until now is something of a surprise considering just how integral the 27-year-old has been to the success of Grêmio over the past two years. A Copa do Brasil, the 2017 Copa Libertadores and the subsequent Recopa Sudamericana obviously saw the likes of Barcelona midfielder Arthur and the talented Luan take the limelight but Kannemann has been a favourite with supporters.
Strong in the tackle and in the air despite being relatively short for a central defender, Kannemann’s relentless desire to win and battle for every ball has seen success follow his career. A San Lorenzo academy product, the youngster broke into Los Cuervos’ senior side in 2010 and helped the club firstly avoid relegation and then lift the 2013 Inicial before the historic Libertadores triumph.
Will Kannemann make the step up to international football? Time will tell but his ability on the ball and versatility to play at left-back makes him a potentially valuable member of a new look Argentina.
Alan Franco – Independiente
There is a good reason that Independiente got Alan Franco tied down a new deal last month with an increased release clause of $20 million as European clubs have already begun circling around the young defender.
Originally a defensive midfielder, Independiente snapped up the teenager from lower league Buenos Aires San Telmo in 2016 and it was here that Franco was converted to his current position. Few would have expected such a quick rise to one of Ariel Holan’s key first team players but after Nicolás Figal was hit with a doping suspension, Franco came into the side and has never looked back.
56 partidos en #Independiente, 55 de titular, 1 gol, 9 amarillas y 2 copas internacionales. Alan Franco, a los 21 años, es citado por primera vez a la Selección Argentina. pic.twitter.com/slK1hhKOpB
— Rodrigo S. Volpi (@rsvolpi) August 17, 2018
Dominant aerially and quick in the tackle, Franco is a reliable first pass out from the back in Holan’s attractive Independiente side and with the youngster in the back line it was no surprise to see El Rojo lift the Copa Sudamericana last year.
One for Argentina’s future, Alan Franco’s progression from youth player to international has been meteoric and while it might be a little too soon for the 21-year-old to be considered the heart of La Albiceleste’s defence right now, the experience of being included in Scaloni’s squad will only aid his development.
Leonel Di Plácido – Lanús
“I went into shock, I couldn’t believe it,” were the words of Leonel Di Plácido, echoing what many others were thinking, after learning that he was part of Scaloni’s squad for the September friendlies.
That is not to say that the Lanús full-back is not a talented player but the timing is perhaps odd given that since the 24-year-old moved to El Granate one year ago , Di Plácido hasn’t shown his full potential. Outstanding prior to the move with Atlético Tucumán, the All Boys academy product, played a large part in El Decano’s promotion back to the top flight and their remarkable path to Copa Libertadores qualification.
Underrated defensively, it is bombing down the right where Di Plácido’s talents really lie and when Lanús swooped it was assumed that the Atlético defender would be replacing one-time Argentina international José Luis Gómez. Both have struggled with injuries and form since then and maybe it is Atlético’s current right-back Leonardo Godoy most deserving of a place at this time.
Matías Vargas – Vélez Sarsfield
Comparisions to Belgium and Chelsea star Eden Hazard might be a little strong but it is certainly fair to say that Matías Vargas has been one of the best players in Argentina during 2018 and with his quick feet, jinking runs and eye for a pass the similarities are there.
The Salta-born academy product made his Vélez debut back in 2015 and after a something of breakthrough season in 2016/17, it was during the last campaign where El Monito really stepped into the spotlight.
Matías Vargas es un verdadero crack. Tiene apenas 21 años, jugó 52 partidos en Vélez Sarsfield, convirtió 11 goles, dio 11 asistencias y aportó su enorme talento para salir de una situación muy complicada. ¡Merecidísima convocatoria a la Selección Argentina! 🐵🍕⚪️💙⚪️🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/3xlfEcCwQL
— Javier Vázquez (@JavierVazquez19) August 17, 2018