Soccer fans in Los Angeles may have liked the opportunity to see Messi, Mascherano, Agüero and Co. up close on Friday evening but after a summer of utter disappointment in Russia, for many closer followers of La Albiceleste the prospect of the old guard trotting out for a friendly against Guatemala would have been unappealing.
Instead, with Mascherano retired, Messi asking for some time away and Agüero left out, interim coach Lionel Scaloni has named a new-look Argentina squad that with so many young players breathes life into what had become something of a stagnant group.
This alone provides reason enough to watch Argentina’s meeting against Guatemala on Friday with interest as it could be the first opportunity for a glimpse into La Albiceleste’s future and the first tentative steps towards Qatar 2022.
The absence of Lionel Messi provided the major talking point in the build-up to September’s friendlies and Argentina will leave the number ten shirt unused as a result but that doesn’t mean that Scaloni is without exciting options in attack.
Scaloni and his staff of Pablo Aimar and Walter Samuel, know all about making the step from under-20 football to the senior side and will be hoping that their guidance can help the new generation from which Argentina must build.
With the AFA no closer to finding a permanent successor to Jorge Sampaoli, it could even be suggested that Scaloni is auditioning for the role on a full-time basis.
Only Nicolás Tagliafico and Cristian Pavón remain from the side that lost to France at the end of June and instead several younger players look to stake their claims for starting roles going foward towards next year’s Copa América and beyond.
Ajax full-back Tagliafico captains Argentina as one of the few remaining definite first choice starters and with a wealth of experience wearning the armband for Independiente while Boca’s Pavón now seeks to further enhance his reputation before an inevitable move to Europe.
Injury ruled out Lautaro Martínez and Mauro Icardi while Paulo Dybala reported for duty late due to a legal issue with his former agent and so Giovanni Simeone gets a tremendous opportunity to impress as Scaloni’s number nine.
Pavón to one side and River Plate’s Gonzalo Martínez to the other will be a refreshingly unfamiliar attack.
However, with Ángel Correa, Franco Cervi and Matías Vargas on the bench, Scaloni is expected to take a closer look at all those in his squad at some point over these two matches.
The starting midfield three on Friday could well be Giovani Lo Celso, criminally underused by Jorge Sampaoli in Russia, the similarly overlooked Leandro Paredes, and River Plate youngster Exequiel Palacios.
Santiago Ascacibar, Franco Cervi, Maxi Meza and Franco Vázquez among others will have to wait their turns but whether off the bench or against Colombia, Scaloni is likely to take a look.
Paredes will sit as the deepest of the three and win possession with Lo Celso and the energetic Palacios both looking to break forward in Scaloni’s dynamic 4-3-3.
Tagliafico marshals the back four from the left and it looks as though Ramiro Funes Mori and Germán Pezzella will start centrally with Renzo Saravia in line for a chance on the right.
Funes Mori looking to re-establish his place in the defence following injury while Germán Pezzella is handed an overdue opportunity. Renzo Saravia was a late call-up due to the injuries to Gabriel Mercado and Eduardo Salvio but looks to get minutes intially ahead of Fabricio Bustos.
Another looking to finally cement a place is goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli with Sergio Romero still gaining full fitness.
Franco Armani and any other members of the squad not listed in this probable starting eleven are still likely to feature over the course of the two matches.
And if you want to hear more on this Argentina squad please go and give the first Podcast a listen. Like, share, subscribe etc so we know whether or not to make more!