As expected Argentina make a number of changes to the side that drew with Germany last Wednesday and while goal scorers in Dortmund, Lucas Ocampos and Lucas Alario are rewarded with starts, it is the inclusion of Nicolás González in Lionel Scaloni’s eleven that has raised most eyebrows.
The Albiceleste continue their rebuild in preparation for an important 2020 and Scaloni continues to take a closer look at a number of players when Argentina play Ecuador in Alicante on Sunday.
The increasingly important Leandro Parades and Rodrigo de Paul keep their places in midfield, as does Lautaro Martínez up front, Juan Foyth at right-back and goalkeeper Agustín Marchesín. But it is an otherwise changed starting eleven.
“The idea is to play with attack-minded players, players who arrive in the penalty area,” Scaloni explained in his press conference after confirming the starting eleven.
That focus on attack sees Lautaro Martínez partnered with Lucas Alario following the Bayer Leverkusen striker’s impressive cameo from the bench on Wednesday. Martínez had been an isolated figure during a dreadful opening 45 minutes that saw Germany take a two-goal lead but looked rejuvenated when joined up front with Alario and it was the substitute who scored the first and created the second to earn a draw.
Alario faces stiff competition ahead of 2020 for those positions and Scaloni referenced the fact that captain Lionel Messi and striker Sergio Agüero will return soon.
“Messi wasn’t selected due to his suspension and Agüero was carrying a knock and not training one hundred percent with his club, so decided to stay. But for sure both will be included in the next international break,” Scaloni confirmed.
To supply the front two and get forward from the wide areas to carry the penalty box threat that Scaloni made reference to will be Lucas Ocampos and Nicolás González. Ocampos’ inclusion is little surprise after the 25-year-old’s late equaliser in Dortmund and fine start to life in Sevilla but a debut for González in a somewhat unfamiliar position is a curious selection.
“We have been watching Nicolás González with the Under-23s. He has the ability to play wide and score,” the Argentina coach explained, “He is an interesting player.”
Given his pace and ability to run at players, González is certainly capable of playing wide but usually to the side of one central number nine, in a 4-3-3, rather than the 4-4-2 that Scaloni’s line-up to face Ecuador would appear to be.
Three goals in five games for VfB Stuttgart this season in the German second division has seen González play centrally and scoring for Argentina under-23s last month against Colombia, the 21-year-old was playing off the centre-forward Ezequiel Ponce.
The other major change to the side that drew with Germany is in defence where Nicolás Otamendi and Marcos Rojo are replaced by Germán Pezzella and Walter Kannemann.
Rojo was replaced at half time after a torrid 45 minutes and Otamendi fared only slightly better so as Scaloni searches for his best back four, Fiorentina captain Pezzella and Grêmio enforcer Kannemann are given a chance. Juan Foyth keeps his place on the right as the Spurs youngster looks to gain fitness and Nicolás Tagliafico is rested in place of the more attacking option Marcos Acuña.
The draw in Dortmund showed some of the worst and best of Scaloni’s Argentina and the inexperienced coach will be hoping for a more positive display in Spain before the important November friendlies.
Argentina Starting XI: Agustín Marchesín; Juan Foyth, Germán Pezzella, Walter Kannemann, Marcos Acuña; Nicolás González, Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes, Lucas Ocampos; Lucas Alario, Lautaro Martínez