Alejandro SABELLA's team has taken maximum points from their last two qualifying matches.
Argentina was faced with two very difficult World Cup qualifying matches in the last round. At home to Uruguay and away to Chile. And they walked away with maximum points. The match against Uruguay was, in my opinion, Argentina's best match since 2007. They completely dominated them and deserved those points. Against Chile, they were under attack and while the back line was bending, it didn't break. Many will be wondering why Willy CABALLERO is not included in the squad for the upcoming World Cup Qualifying matches and rightfuly so. CABALLERO has been excellent this season and deserves a spot on the bench. Sergio ROMERO didn't have the best of matches against Sweden. For some reason, he doesn't do too well in friendly matches but does very well in World Cup Qualifiers. The amount of times he has saved us lately has been ridiculous. He saved a penalty kick against Peru, threw himself onto the ball against Uruguay where he was almost injured and was the reason why Argentina had any chance against Chile. The ball will be flying in La Paz when the team faces Bolivia and every country that goes to play there struggles. Even the best goalkeepers could be made to look like fools while playing there.
The defenders is what we've been used to for a while now. The inclusion of Jose BASANTA can be helpful. I've never seen him play and cannot judge him. However, playing in the Mexican league and the Concacaf Champions League means he has played at altitude level on a pretty consistent basis and is used to playing in those types of environments. That could open the opportunity for him to start the match against Bolivia in La Paz. Again, I've never seen him play and for all I know he could be terrible, but I think if he does play in a match, it would be the one against Bolivia.
Pablo ZABALETA, Hugo CAMPAGNARO, Federico FERNANDEZ and Ezequiel GARAY have become the regular starters for Argentina in the back line. Marcos ROJO doesn't seem to be a fan favorite and while I have nothing against him, he's going to need to watch himself. If he starts, Venezuela will no doubt park the bus and try to counter-attack. Having anyone running towards ROJO on a counter attack will usually end with the result of Marcos getting skinned alive. I don't like his chances any better playing against speedy Bolivians who could probably outrun Usain BOLT at altitude level. With that said, ROJO was having a good game against Uruguay before being substituted off due to an injury. If he can improve on that performance, I'm all for him starting against Venezuela. If not, SABELLA can start with ZABALETA and CAMPAGNARO as fullbacks.
The midfield isn't the most technical. Javier MASCHERANO will be missing his partner in crime, Fernando GAGO as he is out injured. I have little to no doubt in my mind that GUINAZU starts the match against Bolivia as a player of his style could be very useful to have in that match. I can see Ever BANEGA starting the Venezuela match. The problem with him is it depends which BANEGA shows up. If it's the one that can dominate a midfield, he'll be able to help Argentina dictate the match. If it's the party loving Ever BANEGA, he'll be able to help Venezuela dictate their counter attacks. Angel DI MARIA is out, both injured and suspended for the first match, therefore that opens a spot in midfield. Does the third spot go to Walter MONTILLO as was the case when the team played against Sweden? Does it go to Jose SOSA or even Augusto FERNANDEZ? That is a reason why I would like to see Erik LAMELA called-up for this round, but I'll get to that in a minute.
The forwards, HIGUAIN, PALACIO, LAVEZZI, MESSI, AGUERO and DI SANTO. Rodrigo PALACIO has been in excellent form for Inter and I have no problem with him being in the squad. He's versatile, has experience and is scoring goals. Ezequiel LAVEZZI's form has picked-up with PSG and has more often then not been a regular on the team under SABELLA. Franco DI SANTO is another story. He seems like a good kid and always positive (if you follow him on Twitter, you'll know what I mean), but I'd have preferred that SABELLA goes with someone like Hernan BARCOS. With the little minutes he has shown with the senior National Team, he has played well and looks more of a dangerous threat going forward as opposed to DI SANTO.
Erik LAMELA and Mauro ICARDI are the two players who everyone is wanting in the team. I said that DI MARIA is out and I would like to see Erik LAMELA called-up. I meant it. LAMELA is in great form and played for River Plate. The kid is used to playing under pressure. Even if SABELLA doesn't want to start him, having him in the squad would only be a good thing. Mauro ICARDI is a great talent as well and has been great this season for Sampdoria. A real predator in the box and if the team has a difficult time breaking down the Venezuelan team, he would be a great addition. He's great in the air and would be helpful off corners, free kicks or crosses. The thing that many might argue is that these two matches for Argentina are very difficult matches. Venezuela is no longer a push-over and we haven't won against Bolivia in our last three matches. And two of those matches were played in Argentina. My answer to that is Argentina's matches after these two are in June. At home to in-form Colombia and away at Ecuador. Two equally difficult matches. Does that mean LAMELA and ICARDI shouldn't be called-up to those matches as well? Because Argentina's next match after that will be in August away to Russia in a friendly match. Should that be when they finally make the team? Including them in the team (I'm not saying start them, but give them National Team practice and training) will not hurt them. But SABELLA has been getting it right and he has given me no real reason to doubt him. If he believes now isn't the time to call them-up, I'll have to accept it. He obviously knows more than me on the matter.
I don't think it's a bad list, not at all. It's what we've come to expect under SABELLA and it's working. The match against Venezuela will be difficult because they will be playing for the counter attack and we will see how the team reacts to a very defensive team. Against Bolivia, it's going to be a brawl. I'm expecting the same type of match as we saw against Peru but at altitude. Six points will be nearly impossible. Three or four points and depending how they play against Bolivia and I'm happy.