World Cup qualifiers in South America this month may have been lost to Covid-19 but it hasn’t prevented Fernando Batista from naming an under-23 squad for friendlies in Japan as preparations for the rescheduled Olympics continue. La Albiceleste will play Japan on Friday March 26th and again the following Monday in the host nation of this summer’s games.
The majority of the 21 players named have been involved in Batista’s squad over the past 18 months or so that both qualified for the 2020 Olympics originally and won gold at the Pan American games.
While there are some notable absentees, Alexis Mac Allister presumably a victim of the United Kingdom’s stricter regulations on travel, Ezequiel Barco, Pedro De La Vega and Julián Álvarez to name a few, Batista has a strong group to choose from.
Six of the squad have made senior Argentina debuts and look to not only secure their places in Tokyo later this year but remain in the sight of Lionel Scaloni – Ajax’s Lisandro Martínez, who arguably should be included in Scaloni’s squads, Nehuén Pérez, Santiago Ascacibar, Matías Zaracho, Leonardo Balerdi and Adolfo Gaich.
28-year-old Jeremias Ledesma has been excellent since making a move to La Liga club Cádiz from Rosario Central and his inclusion is surely an indication that Batista is considering whether the goalkeeper could take one of the over-23 spots in the Olympic squad.
The other new call-ups come from Argentina’s domestic football with full-backs Kevin Mac Allister and Hernán De La Fuente getting the nod along with Lanús youngster Alexander Bernabei, Estudiantes centre-back Nazareno Colombo and Independiente midfielder Lucas González.
There will no doubt be a large number of changes to the squad that eventually travels to Japan to compete for Argentina’s third Olympic gold but these friendlies offer a great chance for many to push themselves into Batista’s plans.