Copa América Preview – Argentina: Strengths, Weaknesses, Manager, Form, Opponents & More

?Having lost four of the last five finals, Lionel Messi and co. will look to go one better and end Argentina’s 26 year trophy drought as they kick off their 2019 Copa América campaign on Saturday night. 

Here we will take a look at how La Albiceleste are shaping up ahead of the big kick off in Brazil.


Squad

Argentina boast one of the most fearsome forward lines in international football, however the supporting cast isn’t quite of the same quality. If they are to claim a 15th Copa title they will need to rely on their star names performing at their best. 

There’s a feeling in Argentina that ?Messi needs to win silverware with the national team to secure legendary status, and this could very well be his last chance to do so. 

Goalkeepers: Franco Armani (River Plate), Agustín Marchesín (América), Esteban Andrada (Boca Juniors)

Defenders: Juan Foyth (Tottenham Hotspur), Nicolás Tagliafico (Ajax), Renzo Saravia (Porto), Germán Pezzella (Fiorentina), Ramiro Funes Mori (Villarreal), Milton Casco (River Plate), Nicolás Otamendi (Manchester City)

Midfield: Leandro Paredes (PSG), Roberto Pereyra (Watford), Marcos Acuña (Sporting CP), Ángel Di Maria (PSG), Guido Pizarro (UNAL), Rodrigo De Paul (Udinese), Guido Rodriguez (América), Giovani Lo Celso (Real Betis)

Forwards: Sergio Agüero (Manchester City), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Matias Suárez (River Plate), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Lautaro Martínez (Internazionale)


Manager

Following a poor showing in Russia last year, Jorge Sampaoli was replaced in the dugout by his assistant Lionel Scaloni. This is Scaloni’s first managerial post having spent a year assisting Sampaoli at Sevilla before following his boss to the Argentine national team in 2017. 

Lionel Scaloni

As a player he was part of the ‘Super Depor’ side that won the La Liga title at the turn of the millennium. ?He was capped seven times by his country as a player and has started his tenure as manager with six wins from his opening nine matches in charge. 

He has switched to a back four and it’s expected that he will favour a more solid approach during his first competitive games in charge. The Argentine public crave silverware and the pressure will be on ahead of this tournament.


Recent Form

Since France put them out of their misery in Kazan last year, Argentina have put together an inconsistent run of form.

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Six wins from nine reads well, however a couple of friendly victories at home to Mexico are their only noteworthy results. Their other wins came against Guatemala, Iraq, Morocco and most recently Nicaragua. 

Against sterner opponents they have managed a goalless draw with Colombia in New York before losing in friendlies against Brazil and Venezuela. If they are to do well in Brazil they will need to find some consistency and improve their results against the better teams in the region.


Strengths

It is without question that Argentina’s biggest strength is their attack. With ?Sergio Agüero, ?Paulo Dybala and Lionel Messi in their ranks, they have enough to give any defence in world football sleepless nights. 

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On top of this they have the talented Ángel Di Maria in midfield along with highly rated youngster Giovani Lo Celso. If these guys can perform together at their best they’re going to be difficult to stop.

Despite his well documented lack of silverware with the national team, Lionel Messi is Argentina’s all time leading goalscorer with 67 goals in 130 appearances.

Should opposition defences decide to give Argentina’s number 10 all of their attention, they will be leaving space for the brilliant Agüero, fresh off the back of another Premier League title in a season where he once again topped City’s scoring charts.


Weaknesses

Away from their star studded forward line, it’s a team that largely lacks depth or experience on the international stage. Of the seven defenders in the squad Nicolás Otamendi accounts for 60 of the 115 caps that they have combined.

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In their last five matches they have named five different goalkeepers, with the three travelling to Brazil having just 10 international caps between them. It seems likely that River Plate’s 32-year-old Franco Armani will get the nod.

With a rookie manager leading a group of players that have endured a difficult 12 months it remains to be seen whether they’ll be able to put together a good enough showing to please the demanding public back home.


Group B Opponents 

Argentina’s toughest assignment is up first as they face Colombia. Carlos Quieroz’s side have only been beaten once since being knocked out of the World Cup by England last summer. Armed with the likes of James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado and Radamel Falcao, they are certain to provide a stern test.

James Rodriguez

On matchday two they will face a slightly easier task against an ageing Paraguay side who aren’t tipped to pull up any trees over the next few weeks. A 2-0 win over Guatemala last time out is the only win they’ve recorded in the last two years.

Controversial World Cup hosts Qatar will be their final opponents. Ranked 55th in the world they are competing in the Copa América for the first time, having become only the second team from outside of the Americas to receive an invite. Their entire squad plays their club football in their home nation and, on paper, it should be a straightforward victory.

 Sat 15th June  Argentina v Colombia  23:00  Fonte Nova Arena, Salvador
 Wed 19th June Argentina v Paraguay 21:30  Estádio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
 Sun 29th June Qatar v Argentina 16:00  Arena di Gremio, Port Alegre

Route to the Final

While this isn’t a vintage Argentina side they are still widely expected to progress from the group stage. Winning the group will set up a quarter final against the runner up of Group C, probably either Uruguay or current holders Chile.

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?Finishing as runner up will set up a quarter final with the runner up of Group A, potentially Peru if Brazil top the group as expected. A runner up spot would also result in a probable semi-final against the host nation.

Should Argentina and Brazil both top their groups it would set up a potential showdown between these two great rivals at the Maracanã on 7th July.


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