Argentina scraped through qualification, on the back of sheer brilliance from Lionel Messi.

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Argentina World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide

Shockingly, Argentina only just qualified for the 2018 World Cup. From the opening 2-0 defeat at home to Ecuador, to the 3-1 away win against the same opponents in their final game, it was drama all the way in a fraught qualifying campaign as Argentina flirted dangerously with missing out on a first World Cup since 1970. Three coaches were used, and just 19 goals scored in 18 rounds.

Related: World Cup Stadiums

Key Moments in Qualifying 

Oct 2015
With Lionel Messi absent through injury, Argentina’s lack of attacking guile is cruelly exposed as they lose 2-0 at home to Ecuador.
Jun 2016
After a Copa Centenario Final loss to Chile, Messi announces his retirement from international football. Thankfully for the national team, he quickly has a rethink and says he’ll carry on playing.
Mar 2017
Messi is accused of abusing a linesman during the 1-0 win over Chile and banned for four games. He misses the defeat in Bolivia, but then FIFA relent and he is free to play again.
Oct 2017
In a must-win game away to Ecuador, Argentina go a goal down after 41 seconds but Messi rescues them with a magnificent hat-trick.

Argentina World Cup Group

In Group D, Argentina are joined by Iceland, Nigeria, and a tough Croatia side with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic at the helm.

Argentina World Cup Friendlies

Argentina’s first friendly of 2018 will be against Giorgio Chiellini and Italy on the 23rd of March, and then four days later will have a tough game against Spain.

  • 23rd March – Italy (won 2-0)
  • 27th March – Spain (lost 6-1)

Related: World Cup Friendlies

Argentina World Cup Fixtures

Argentina will play their first group game on the 16th of June against Iceland. On the 21st they will play their toughest group game, against the Croatians, and end their group stage on the 26th against Nigeria.

Related: Sergio Aguero November 2007

The Coach 

Jorge Sampaoli, age 57 (13.03.60)
The team’s third coach of the qualifying campaign – following on from Gerardo Martino and Edgardo Bauza – he took charge for the final four games. His intense, high press, attacking game was a great success with Chile, and briefly Sevilla, but does he have the players to make it work with Argentina?

Final Four: Sampaoli took control of Argentina for the final four games of the qualifying campaign (Getty Images)

The Players
Stars
In the eight games he missed, Argentina accumulated just seven points. In the 10 in which he played, they managed 21. Seldom has a team been so dependent on one player as Argentina are on Lionel Messi.
Stalwarts
Angel Di Maria was one of only two players to start in all 18 South American rounds. Used in a variety of different positions, he had an uneven campaign, but free to float in the last round he combined well with Messi. Although not always convincing, Nicolas Otamendi will hope to take his improved club form with Manchester City into the national team.
Missing
Centre-back Martin Demichelis retired during the campaign and defensive resources were further depleted by the knee injury to Ramiro Funes Mori. Dario Benedetto is set to miss out after suffering knee ligament damage in November.
Debuts
Although both have plenty of potential, neither Paulo Dybala nor Mauro Icardi has yet made an impression playing for the national side.

Argentina World Cup Squad

Preliminary World Cup Squad – 

Goalkeepers – Willy Caballero, Nahuel Guzman, Sergio Romero

Defenders – Marcos Acuna, Fabricio Bustos, Federico Fazio, Marcos Rojo, Javier Mascherano, Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico

Midfielders – Ever Banega, Lucas Biglia, Manuel Lanzini, Giovani Lo Celso, Leandro Paredes, Diego Perotti, Eduordo Salvio

Forwards – Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi

Argentina World Cup Injuries

We will update you with all the injuries regularly.

Related: World Cup TV Schedule

Class: Dybala has improved massively for Juventus but is yet to make an impact at international level (Getty Images)

The Unanswered Questions

Do they have the players to defend in the way Jorge Sampaoli wants?
There appears to be a lack of defensive pace to push up and play a high line. Without good attacking full-backs, Sampaoli has been using wingers instead – but the problems with such a plan were clear in the recent 4-2 loss to Nigeria.

Improved: Otamendi has improved massively at Manchester City but can he translate that onto the international stage? (Getty Images)

How can they reduce their dependence on Lionel Messi?
Argentina cannot simply give the ball to their number 10 and pray for him to do something special. Sampaoli must build a side that gives Messi a structure to work in, and which gives the coach options if their star man is injured or off form.

Related: World Cup Fixtures

Who is the centre-forward?
Sampaoli rejected Gonzalo Higuain, went with Mauro Icardi, then dropped him in favour of Dario Benedetto. Interestingly, Sergio Aguero only started two games alongside Messi – and they won both.

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