Argentina player ratings v Qatar: Messi not at best but La Albiceleste still have enough

It’s not been often over the past few years that you could say that Lionel Messi had an off day in an Argentina shirt and yet the team still managed a win. Lionel Scaloni’s side needed victory for a place in the Copa América quarter-finals and while it was far from a vintage display, Argentina did just that.

Franco Armani – 6

Without a great deal to do during the game, Franco Armani produced a performance that generated a little more confidence perhaps boosted by his penalty save against Paraguay. No risks were taken when the ball was played back to the River Plate number one and even though an offside flag ensured there was no danger, Armani saved well one-on-one in the first half.

Renzo Saravia – 5

Restored to the starting eleven over Milton Casco, it was still a performance well below the standard set at Racing Club by Renzo Saravia. Not asked to do a huge amount defensively, the new Porto full-back tried to get forward and contribute to the attack but lacked precision with his passing.

Juan Foyth – 5

A useful passing option out from the back Juan Foyth was typically assured with the ball at his feet but did little to improve things defensively. The 21-year-old was clumsy in the challenge, gave away the free-kick from which Qatar hit the post and picked up a yellow card for his troubles. Replaced late on for Germán Pezzella to avoid any possibility of seeing red.

Nicolás Otamendi – 5

Under no where near as much pressure as the first two games, Nicolás Otamendi did what was expected but at no point transmitted a confidence in Argentina’s ability to keep a clean sheet. Fully committed as ever and without any glaring errors, Otamendi is certainly not at the level he has been in previous years.

Nicolás Tagliafico – 6

Increasingly the most important part of Argentina’s back four and certainly the most consistent, Nicolás Tagliafico produced another decent performance which grew as the game went on. A little shaky initially, the Ajax full-back impressed particularly after the introduction of Marcos Acuña, who provided a more natural left-sided midfielder to work with offensively. A double-act that may well be considered against Venezuela.

Rodrigo De Paul – 6

Eager to get on the ball and link up with Lionel Messi there were a number of positives from Rodrigo De Paul’s performance. Imprecise at times during the first half, the 25-year-old couldn’t be faulted for effort even if at times the application was lacking. As the game went on, De Paul grew in influence and provided Argentina with some incision from midfield that should see him remain in Scaloni’s plans.

Leandro Paredes – 7

There will be far greater midfield tests but Leandro Paredes produced one of his best performances for Argentina to hold things together. 96% pass completion and four key passes, Paredes was always an option and did exactly what Scaloni wanted at the base of his midfield.

Giovani Lo Celso – 5

Praised by Lionel Scaloni for his work-rate, no one could criticise Giovani Lo Celso for his effort during the Copa América but constantly being asked to play in different roles and different systems has hardly been beneficial. The Betis playmaker struggled to make an impact and Argentina actually improved when Marcos Acuña replaced him shortly after half time.

Lionel Messi – 6

One of Lionel Messi’s weakest performances for Argentina it is perhaps a positive that the team could still pick up a win. Full of running, the captain was everywhere and despite not being at his best did still create some good opportunities for the strikers. Having Sergio Agüero and Lautaro Martínez ahead did open up space but Messi lacked his usual killer touch and blazed over one glorious second half opportunity.

Lautaro Martínez – 7

Moments after smashing a volley over the crossbar, Lautaro Martínez showed his instinctive goal threat to pounce on a wayward pass and give Argentina the lead. The early goal was vital and while the 21-year-old wouldn’t see many chances thereafter, Lautaro continued to work hard alongside Sergio Agüero.

Sergio Agüero – 7

Only the ninth time that Sergio Agüero has completed a game despite now racking up 93 appearances for Argentina and it was just as well. Snatching at a couple of earlier chances and sometimes lacking the touch to interplay with midfield, Agüero wrapped up the win with a classic goal ten minutes from time. The sign of a great striker after missing chances and getting frustrated to remain focused and find the net.

Substitutes

Marcos Acuña – 7

Lionel Scaloni finally turned to Marcos Acuña and El Huevo may have done enough to earn a starting role against Venezuela. Acuña provided drive from midfield and a balance with Tagliafico down the left side to assist the entire team offensively.

Paulo Dybala – 7

Only a 15-minute cameo for Paulo Dybala but one that will have not harmed his chances of taking a more leading role under Lionel Scaloni. Able to offer something a little different to Lautaro Martínez, it was Dybala’s pass inside that found Agüero in space before the striker burst forward to score the second. It may not be enough to displace Lautaro in the starting eleven but after a bright performance often not seen in an Argentina shirt, Dybala will be an interesting option.

Germán Pezzella – Replaced Juan Foyth five minutes from time when the game was won there was nothing for Germán Pezzella to do. Whether Scaloni brings the Fiorentina defender back alongside Otamendi against Venezuela remains to be seen.

Coach

Lionel Scaloni – 6

The return of Saravia and Foyth coming in for Pezzella suggested Lionel Scaloni still didn’t really know what his best side or system were but the obvious decision to stick with Agüero and Lautaro Martínez immediately paid off. Many would have questioned his substitutions once again when Acuña came on for Lo Celso but it improved the team and Paulo Dybala’s introduction also made a positive impact. The question now is what does Scaloni do for Venezuela.

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