There was a warm embrace on the training field between Paulo Dybala and coach Lionel Scaloni as the Juventus forward arrived in Los Angeles this week to complete the squad. In the absence of the suspended Lionel Messi, all eyes will be on Dybala after the 25-year-old produced one of his most promising performances to date at the end of the Copa América and will now be aiming to become a central part of the Albiceleste’s line-up.
Frustration has been the overwhelming feeling around the vast majority of Dybala’s 24 international appearances so far but hope remains for the future and Thursday’s friendly will be another opportunity.
Dybala has previously spoken of the difficulty fitting into the side alongside Lionel Messi as they both look to occupy space off the right-flank but that will not be an issue against Chile with the Argentina captain missing and it will instead be the Instituto product pulling the strings behind Lautaro Martínez and Joaquín Correa.
Of course it was against Chile in the Copa América third-place playoff that Dybala scored only his second Argentina goal and also saw Lionel Messi sent off and subsequently suspended for his outburst against CONMEBOL.
The ill-feeling left over from two Copa América final defeats prompted coach Lionel Scaloni to say in his press conference this week, “It has become a clásico in recent times.
“They [Chile] were the last opponent we had in Brazil and it’s always complicated. We hope to put on a good show but above all that we are left with a good feeling.”
For Scaloni the friendly against Chile is the beginning of a new chapter. No longer the interim coach keeping the seat warm for another manager to come in, Scaloni has been backed by the AFA to keep charge until the 2022 World Cup and so back in Los Angeles where it all began for the 41-year-old, the long road towards Qatar begins.
“The sooner we knew the better, mostly so we could plan for the future – World Cup qualification and the Copa América. Luckily the decision was made before December [when his initial temporary contract was due to expire] and that was welcome for us.
“I have a sense of joy and responsibility to lead a group of top players. The sensation is similar to last year before the game with Guatamala [when Scaloni made his debut as interim coach].”
With Sergio Agüero rested for the international fixtures this time round, Lautaro Martínez now finds himself partnered by Lazio’s Joaquín Correa and a now familiar midfield of Leandro Paredes, Giovani Lo Celso and Rodrigo de Paul takes to the field once more.