Diego Maradona has included six forwards in his final 23 man squad for this summer’s
It leaves Argentina boasting one of the most dangerous attacking options in the competition, with star quartet Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuian joined by veteran Boca Juniors forward Martin Palermo and prolific Inter forward Diego Milito – who had been expected to be left out of the final squad.
In the midfield the outspoken Maradona selected seven, with Javier Pastore the surprise inclusion, the uncapped 20-year-old impressed in Serie A and will challenge for a place in midfield alongside skipper Javier Mascherano and veteran ex-Manchester United and Chelsea man Juan Sebastian Veron. Newcastle winger Jonas Gutierrez kept his place in the final 23 as expected but his Newcastle teammate Fabricio Coloccini was cut from the defence with Maradona surprisingly going with Ariel Garce despite the 30-year-old’s last appearance being two years ago against Haiti. The Newcastle centre-back is said to be shocked at being left out of the squad. Coloccini missed out on the final 23 along with Newell’s Old Boys Juan Insaurralde.
Many questions were raised regarding the original 30-man squad which failed to include Inter’s influential duo of Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Zanetti. Should the Gung-ho style of football expected by Maradona – who has signaled his intent to play every ball through Messi – leak goals this summer, questions will be asked why the Coach refused to look at the pair who could have added strength to the defensive side of Argentina team.
With the final 23 selected, the question of who will start in Argentina’s opening game against Nigeria on June 12 is still no certainty. Five-time capped AZ Alkmaar goalkeeper Sergio Romero is expected in goal with a back four of Nicolas Otamendi at right-back, Martin Demichelis and Walter Samuel in the centre and former Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze at left-back.
In the midfield Angel Di Maria and Jonas Gutierrez are expected on either wing, with Liverpool’s Javier Mascherano and Juan Sebastian Veron in the centre of midfield. Mascherano’s club teammate Maxi Rodriguez survived to make the final 23 and will provide cover on the wings for Di Maria and Gutierrez. Juan Mercier, Olympiakos midfielder Jesus Datolo, Jose Sosa were all omitted from the squad after making the original 30. The midfield still lacks the depth it could have had, with the likes of Fernando Gago and Cambiasso missing and the absence of now internationally-retired Juan Roman Riquelme after a bust up with Maradona. Doubts surround who comes into the team if the legs of veteran Veron fail to last the tournament or the any of the temperamental midfielders find themselves suspended.
Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi are expected to make up the front two but Maradon is not short of quality options up-front. The Head Coach has the luxury of choosing from six in-form forwards and may however alter his system to find a space for Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain or Diego Milito after the Inter forward‘s fine run of recent form, including a double in the Champions League final. Higuain, the least experienced forward in the squad is priced 16/1 to win the Golden boot at this summer’s tournament after finishing second in the La Liga goal charts behind Messi, on 27 goals for Real Madrid.
Argentina may well find themselves as outsiders for this years tournament, and with a relatively straightforward group with Nigeria, Korea Republic and Greece, three wins from three could give them the confidence to go all the way. The nightmare of the 6-1 defeat to Bolivia inflicted at altitude may be in the back of some Argentina’ fans minds heading to South Africa.
Last night’s 5-0 victory against lowly Canada, without playmaker Messi, will give the South American’s a big boost ahead of the first game on June 12 against Nigeria. And will give Maradona further selection headaches with Liverpool winger Maxi Rodriguez netting the first two goals.
Final 23-man Argentina squad
Sergio Romero (AZ Alkmaar)
Mariano Andujar (Catania)
Diego Pozo (Colon)
Nicolas Burdisso (Roma)
Martin Demichelis (Bayern Munich)
Walter Samuel (Inter)
Gabriel Heinze (Marseille)
Nicolas Otamendi (Velez Sarsfield)
Clemente Rodriguez (Estudiantes)
Ariel Garce (Colon)
Javier Mascherano,Captain (Liverpool)
Juan Sebastian Veron (Estudiantes)
Maxi Rodriguez (Liverpool)
Mario Bolatti (Fiorentina)
Angel Di Maria (Benfica)
Jonas Gutierrez (Newcastle)
Javier Pastore (Palermo)
Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid)
Diego Milito (Inter)
Martin Palermo (Boca Juniors)
Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)
Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)