Argentina’s World Cup roster: Who starts and who sits? | STATE OF THE UNION

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Alexi Lalas and David Mosse discuss Argentina's roster possibilities in the latest episode of Alexi Lalas' State of the Union Podcast.

- All right what are we talking about today when it comes to what's going to happen this summer in the World Cup, Mosse?

- All right Alexi, we're going to delve into Argentina's attack, which on paper, it looks like an embarrassment of riches. But as we've discussed on this podcast before, that it hasn't always translated in big games in major tournaments. But you know, all the big names, Messi, Dybala, Higuain, Aguero, Di Maria, you could even throw Icardi into this group.

The interesting thing is that late in that qualifying campaign Jorge Sampaoli, their manager, kind of lost the plot a little bit and decided to start guys like Dario Benedetto in do or die games, and Messi bailed him out with that trick against Ecuador. The solution for me when a team is struggling is never to put worse players on the field. You have to trust pedigree and hope the stars actually come through in the end. Now, it looks like he's had some time to reflect, and we are going to see the big names this summer.

How I think it's going to play out is Aguero is going to be starting up there alongside Messi. Higuain will be in the squad as a backup to Aguero, Di Maria will also be starting. The most fascinating guy for me is Dybala because to me, he's Argentina's second best player right now, behind Messi. But he's so similar to Messi that they actually struggle to play with each other. And Sampaoli kind of threw up his hands in qualifying and said, look we don't have time to try to sort this out, so I'm just going to put Dybala on the bench for now, and maybe in the World Cup he can be a factor. And so now again, Sampaoli's had more time in friendlies, and he's got a month of practice, so we'll see if he figures out a lineup where the Dybala and Messi can play together because otherwise that would be criminal to have a player like Dybala sitting on the bench the whole tournament.

- So, but the way you're seeing it, whether you want it or not, the way you see it happening is a potential Dybala and Higuain on the bench.

- Yeah.

- Di Maria yes for you?

- Yeah, Di Maria definitely starts.

- Why?

- Sampaoli likes him, and he even, he might even pop up in like one of those wing back roles, kind of like the role that Marcos Alonso plays for Chelsea. Sampaoli likes his versatility, he's used him in a variety of ways, and Messi loves him, loves playing with him, so. Di Maria is a guy, despite his so-so form for PSG, he came up very small in that second leg against Real Madrid. I think he's a guaranteed starter this summer.

- So, is it a mirror image type of thing where Di Maria plays better for country as opposed to a club, but Messi plays better for club as opposed to country?

- Yeah, there's something to that. Keep in mind Di Maria's numbers from PSG are very good, but it's a little bit of patting his stats against the dreck of [INAUDIBLE]. I mean, he had his chance against Real Madrid and came up small. I think he is a player that's kind of lost a step, a little bit, but still like I said, they like him, he's been a fixture in that lineup for a lot of years. So, I don't think that'll change in the summer.

- You don't think that there's any type of problem when it comes to the group stage for them, do you? Argentina, Group D, Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, and Nigeria. Their first game against Iceland, there will be a lot of attention. From a traditional standpoint, you look at that and say, whatever. But what Iceland has become, certainly a crowd favorite, and is going to be once, even if for people that don't know this story, once the stories come out and people recognize what it is, there's going to be a lot of people supporting Iceland.

- It's a frisky little group, it's no joke. I mean, Iceland I think are a legit team, and Croatia are very good. They were frankly my sleeper to go really far in 2014, and made me look like an idiot because they went out in the group stage, so.

- It wouldn't be the first time.

- No, I'm not going to go down that path again, but I do think they're very good, and Modric and Rakitic--

- --and Nigeria, it seems like they always played Argentina.

- I always think of that 94 match, was it Caniggia who scored both goals? Maradona set him up in, that's the one I always hearken back to, but they also faced off in 2002. I mean, they faced Nigeria several times.

- Well, there's plenty of coaches, even coaches that are in this tournament, that we'll look at Argentina and say, cry me a river. In terms of the talent that they have, and it's one of the reasons why we want to watch it, to see if they can get all of this talent on the field at the same time. And from a coaching perspective, I think it's fascinating because as a coach you have all of this talent, and can you find a way? And what you're telling me is Sampaoli has said, I don't have enough time, especially as an international Coach to figure it out. So, he's going to put some really incredible talent on the bench they're going forth.

- What is your dream final this summer? Would it be Argentina - Portugal, Argentina - Brazil, Germany - Brazil? Do you have a quote, unquote dream final?

- I would like to see, I want to see Messi, at least get the opportunity to do it. So, I would love to see Argentina in the final and, but then I'd like to see someone different. So, I know with all the respect Mosse, I don't care if Brazil is in the final.

- Like an England - Belgium, somebody like that?

- That would be incredible. That would be incredible. Can you imagine if England finally got back, and then they play Argentina, and Messi has his moment? That would be great. But I would love to see, I would love to see him get his moment because I don't think that Cristiano is going to get his moment with this Portugal team. So, I want to see what one of the greatest players and arguably, the greatest player in the world, does once again, in that moment, and that long shadow albeit of a small man, Diego Maradona continues to hang over him until it gets that World Cup.