Not just your average meaningless friendly on foreign soil, Jimmy Lee argues Argentina’s match against Guatemala is of far greater significance…
“After the disappointment of the World Cup, I just need a break.”
“Messi won’t even be a part of the squad.”
“Wait, who is the Manager?”
“It’s just a friendly, it doesn’t even matter.”
“The match doesn’t start until midnight.”
Each of these is one of the many excuses I have heard from my friends in Argentina as to why they do not plan to watch the Albiceleste’s upcoming friendlies.
The truth is, there are several reasons to skip the upcoming matches against Guatemala and Colombia. After all, they are only friendlies, but to say they don’t carry any significance would be an incorrect statement. While these two matches may not matter when it comes to World Cup qualification, they could play a vital role as we start the rebuilding process of the Argentina National Team with a focus on next year’s Copa America and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
So, why should you watch?
Argentina may have already found its future Manager
I hate to break the hearts of all Argentines, the chances of Diego Simione or Mauricio Pochettino taking over the as coach of Argentina is about as likely as Pep Guardiola, which we know has a zero per cent chance of happening. While both may at some future point manage their country’s team, that day is not today. Of course, the AFA have their sights set on the best, but expectations should be taken down a notch or two.
Argentina will likely need to settle for either an experienced coach like José Pékerman or a young up and comer like Matías Almeyda or Macelo Gallardo. The experienced manager path is one the Albiceleste have gone done several times before. Maybe it’s time to give a chance to someone with a different vision.
Among those who could get the full-time job for Argentina is the man who currently has the interim job – Lionel Scaloni. In charge of Argentina, Scaloni has coached at one tournament, the COTIF under-20 tournament in L’Alcúdia, and won one tournament. No, it was not a first team tournament, but nevertheless, he was successful at a job Jorge Sampaoli refused to do.
The National Team may still look for a flashier name to take over the full-time job, but that is what most expected England to do when Gareth Southgate was appointed as the interim manager of the Three Lions and look how well that has turned out. Just because Southgate has had success with England does not mean Scaloni will be successful with Argentina. But with no other big names emerging as possible managers, the 40-year old from Rosario may indeed get the chance to lead the team moving forward.
Argentina’s future core may be a part of this ‘experimental’ squad
True there are several players included in this squad that only the most devout Superliga fans will have heard of including, Alan Franco, Leonel Di Plácido, Matías Vargas, Exequiel Palacios, Gonzalo Martínez, and most recently added, Renzo Saravia.
There is also a group of young players with European experience who will finally be getting the opportunity they have deserved for a while. Players like Paulo Dybala, Mauro Icardi, Lautaro Martínez, Ángel Correa, Franco Vázquez, Santiago Ascacíbar, and Giovani Lo Celso have proven their talents in Europe but have not been given legitimate chances in the squad ahead of the likes of Messi, Agüero, Higuaín, Mascherano, Di María, and Bigilia.
Much of the squad included by Scaloni will be hitting their prime in the next four years and could play a significant role in the Copa América and World Cup.
Out with the old and in with the new
Most Argentines remember when they saw Messi and others wear the national team colors for the first time. It may have been in the 2005 sub-20 World Cup or the 2008 Olympics, both won by Argentina. We have been watching the Golden Generation for over 10 years now, how many more time do you want to watch more of the same? This pair of friendlies could be your first chance to see the future core of the Albiceleste play together.
This new squad may not be as talented, yet, but it’s something new to watch, and new often means exciting. Argentina may lose to both Colombia and even worse, Guatemala. It could be a national embarrassment. But how much more embarrassing could it be than what we saw during the last round of World Cup qualifiers or the 3-0 defeat to Croatia in Russia?
Most of us are holding on to the memory of 2014 and the squad that fell just short of immortality. While we will never forget that World Cup, it’s time to move on. While there is still a good chance Messi will continue to play for Argentina in the future, when it comes to everyone else, we can thank the old crew for all they did and move our focus to the future.
It is impossible to predict what the squad will look like in 2022, but I will go out on a limb and say, one, if not many of the members of that future World Cup team, will be on the pitch for Argentina in Los Angeles and New York.
Jimmy lived in Córdoba, Argentina as a teenager and is still an active Socio for his beloved club, Belgrano. He currently lives in Seattle, WA and loves to write about football when he has a break from work and family. He also runs the Belgrano – English twitter account.