Will Lionel Messi’s World Cup swansong for Argentina land him his first winners’ medal? Predicted line-up and stats

ARGENTINA’S superstar Lionel Messi announced that this will be his last World Cup.

That will be a relevant factor as the team leader will have his last chance to lift the World Cup, and his retirement will likely impact the chances of Argentina in the 2026 World Cup.

So as Messi wraps up his international career, the South Americans will have their last shot with their star as their talisman.

Brazil, Argentina and even Uruguay have an extra challenge in comparison with the European rivals of the World Cup: they don’t face tough games as often as they wanted to remain in top form.

As Argentina and their rivals Brazil have qualified pretty early to the World Cup, it’s fair to say their last big game was the final of Copa America 2021 which Argentina won

The Argentinians hadn’t touched any silverware since 1993 and that title was celebrated almost like winning the World Cup.

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That title may be over a year old, but it certainly boosted the morale of the South Americans.

Predicted Starting XI

Although on paper Argentina line up in a 4-3-3, there is a defining lack of structure in Argentina’s tactics.

Aside from Juventus’ Ángel Di María and Ajax’s Lucas Ocampos, there is a significant lack of true wingers in the national pool.

How Argentina could line up in Qatar


However, there is an overwhelming number of diverse and dynamic midfielders.

As a consequence, similar to Spain’s route to glory in 2010, Scaloni’s possession-based tactics look to take full advantage of this depth in the midfield.

The backline is fairly straightforward, with the fullbacks having more attacking roles.

In the midfield, Leandro Paredes, Rodrigo De Paul, and Giovani Lo Celso offer a balanced and dynamic trio.

Additionally, ahead of them, Papu Gómez and Lionel Messi are almost false wingers, constantly drifting inside to create superiority.

Lautaro Martínez is the marksman up front, but he is also capable of providing support in possession.

Attacking Phase

Argentina’s tactics are focused on pressuring in the attacking field and creating lots of chances.

Scaloni’s team moves a lot and that creates options for the players with the ball to pass it easily and that translates as lots of shots and goals.

As a result, there is no set structure or shape they look to maintain. The backline is perhaps the most constant unit, but ahead of them, the players are as fluid and mobile as possible.

Their structure in the build-up, as seen below, begins with a line of four behind a packed-up midfield.

In the build-up a line of four stays together as a unit behind the Argentina midfield

Scaloni’s men are constantly looking to create numerical superiority around the ball. 

This can be further illustrated in the example below, against Italy. 

Numerical superiority around the ball is key to keeping possession

The same principle is followed in the final third. As they try to breakdown Estonia’s low block, Scaloni’s men create a 5v4 superiority on the left side. 

Overloading on Estonia’s left-hand side in the final third helps the Argie’s break down a low block

Argentina is extremely dynamic in possession, with individual talent and intuition guiding a lot of their actions. 

Defensive Phase

Similar to their tactics in possession, there is no rigid structure without the ball,.

In the example below, against Brazil, they are able to man-mark every Brazilian player as they focus their build-up on the right side.

Argentina like to man-mark when they don’t have the ball

They are also extremely compact when going about their pressing. 

In the example below, Peru is nowhere near as structured and organised as Brazil was in the last image.

Nonetheless, Argentina advances their high block and creates significant numerical superiority around the ball.

Argentina are compact when they press the opposition

In lower blocks, Scaloni’s men revert into a more compact 4-4-2 block, with Lionel Messi being an outlet without many defensive duties. 

Against Italy, although a loose 4-4-2 can be identified, it is dictated by man references.

In lower blocks, Argentina revert to 4-4-2

Transitions

In transition phases, Scaloni’s tactics adhere to common and modern strategies.

With such talented players, when the ball is recovered, they look to immediately launch vertical counterattacks aiming to exploit the chaos that is transitions. 

In the example below, Argentina launches six players against Chile’s four. 

In counterattack Argentina commit numbers forward

The beauty of transitions is how fast and keen they are.

Against Chile, they perform a quick combination to reach their centre-forward. Meanwhile, three other players are sprinting forward to support the counterattack. 

Argentina’s forward is well supported by runners from midfield who quickly sprint into action

Unsurprisingly, their defensive transition begins with a counter-press. 

Immediately after losing possession, Scaloni’s men are instructed to instantly pressure the ball and keep the opposition from getting out. 

When they lose possession, Argentina aggressively hunt the ball back in packs

Attackers

Lionel Messi certainly is the star of this team. They have good attackers, but potentially important names Ángel di María and Pablo Dybala are still recovering from injuries, but have chances of being fit enough to play.

Papu Gomez and Lautaro Martínez are also expected to be protagonists of the Argentine attack.

Midfielders

Scaloni’s midfield is the heart of this new-look national team.

There are no star players in this section of the pitch, but on the other hand, there are numerous players that are capable of doing the dirty work and working together to supply their dangerous forward line. Lo Celso, De Paul, and Paredes lead the midfield. 

Defenders

Albiceleste’s defence has a balance between more experienced players such as Nicolás Otamendi and Nicolás Tagliafico and young stars such as Cristian Romero and Lisandro Martínez.

Additionally, Romero and Martínez are leading Tottenham and Man United’s backlines, respectively. 

Key player

Messi is a player that doesn’t require much explanation. His skills are reflected in his numbers.

However, the player never enjoyed the same proportion of success with his national team compared with his bright days at Barcelona.

Now at PSG, the star is living easy days at Ligue 1, but the World Cup is going to be a tougher challenge.

Lionel Messi is dreaming of ending his international career with a World Cup triumph

This is going to be the last World Cup for him, according to the player, in a recent interview. The psychological factor could be a positive factor or a negative one.

After bitter moments wearing the colours of Argentina, he announced his international retirement in the past, but eventually decided to try again and he eventually lifted Copa America last year.

The pressure of lifting some silverware is gone and this could be important to pave the way for an Argentine title. 

Tournament Prediction

Despite not having won the competition since 1986, Argentina enters the 2022 Qatar World Cup as one of the favourites to take the trophy home.

Under Lionel Scaloni, Albiceleste have not lost a single match since 2019.

With the 45-year-old manager seeming to have found the perfect recipe, we will see if Lionel Messi can finish off his career with a fairy tale ending.

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However, Argentina will face challenges to see that happening.

Group C is somewhat balanced with Mexico and Poland, and they’ll have to fight hard to qualify, but if they do, they’ll certainly be more than ready for the Round of 16.

For even more detailed analysis of all 32 teams in the FIFA World Cup 2022, download your copy of the November Total Football Analysis magazine here

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