Only a final day defeat to Brazil denied Argentina under-20s lifting the South American Championship in February but with a World Cup spot safely secured regardless, Fernando Batista wasn’t expected to make a huge number of changes to the squad that will travel to Poland later this month.
The most successful nation in under-20 World Cup history, Argentina won’t be favourites but still have a squad laden with individual talent.
A point made all the more apparent by Batista’s decision to leave out Borussia Dortmund defender Leonardo Balerdi and Vélez Sarsfield star Thiago Almada. The pair are two of nine players to have dropped out of the squad that achieved qualification in Chile earlier in the year.
The merits of Francesco Lo Celso, Julián López, Facundo Colidio, Lautaro Morales, Aarón Barquett, Maxi Romero and Manuel Insaurralde can be debated but Balerdi and Almada looked certainties to be included.
Balerdi completed a big money move to Dortmund in the days before the tournament in Chile began only for injury to force the centre back to miss much of the tournament and while Almada produced only flashes of his talent, the 18-year-old has gone from strength to strength in recent weeks and is now reportedly on the wish lists of Barcelona and Manchester City.
Almada will still be available in 2021 and of course, Argentina have regardless been able to call up some tremendous prospects. In their places are Cristian Ferreira, Ezequiel Barco, Agustín Almendra, Tomás Chancalay, Agustín Urzi, Marcelo Weigandt, Maximiliano Centurión and Joaquín Blázquez.
Agustín Almendra and Ezequiel Barco were due to star in Chile only for pre-tournament injuries to rule them out. The midfield at times lacked the drive that Boca Juniors’ Almendra was set to provide and Barco, still only 20 years of age, is capable of winning any game even if his move to Atlanta United has been underwhelming.
Goalkeeper Joaquín Blázquez, on loan at Valencia from Talleres, replaces Lautaro Morales and the defence is bolstered by Boca full-back Marcelo Weigandt and Argentinos Juniors centre back Maximiliano Centurión while Colón forward Tomás Chancalay comes back in after being overlooked for the Sudamericano.
The two most exciting new additions are perhaps River Plate midfielder Cristian Ferreira, who has rapidly emerged as an important member of Marcelo Gallardo’s senior squad at the Monumental and 18-year-old Agustín Urzi, Banfield’s fleet-footed wide player.
Both could immediately go into Batista’s starting plans and are evidence of the Argentina coach favouring those youngsters getting regular minutes at senior level over the likes of Maxi Romero or Facundo Colidio for example.
It is understood that Almada and Balerdi are among those on Batista’s stand-by list along with Racing’s Julián López, San Lorenzo pair Elías Pereyra and Manuel Insaurralde, Banfield’s Julián Carranza and Huracán’s Nicolás Cordero, depending on Carranza’s current knee injury.
Argentina begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa on May 25th in Tychy before group F matches with Portugal and South Korea.