In defence of Argentina’s defence
With their passage to Brazil already confirmed, Argentina’s final two qualifiers gave boss Alejandro Sabella an opportunity to experiment with his squad selection, especially in light of Messi’s absence through injury. The inclusion of Mauro Icardi and Erik Lamela certainly indicated a willingness to look for a viable Plan B if, heaven forbid, they are without their talisman come next summer.
A 3-1 win against Peru and a 3-2 loss to Uruguay – albeit fielding a second-string side – served up some mixed conclusions but nevertheless will have been a useful exercise for Sabella.
The Albiceleste’s potency upfront, arguably the best array of attacking talent in the world, is well-documented but has also led to criticism of a top heaviness. With a quartet of Messi, Aguero, Higuain & Di Maria the balance of the team inevitably leans towards attack but with the second best defensive record in qualifying of just 15 goals conceded in 16 games suggest that doubts, though not unfounded, might be somewhat overblown.
Sabella’s first choice centre back pairing of Ezequiel Garay and Federico Fernandez have benefitted from a settled run in the side and have begun to form a good understanding. While few could argue with Garay’s selection, the jury is still out over Fernandez. His performance against Uruguay, without his usual cohort by his side, will not have allayed lingering fears.
It is unlikely that Sabella will ditch the partnership he has put so much faith in at this late stage but should an injury or suspension rule out either Garay or Fernandez, who would Argentina turn to? Fabricio Coloccini has been a regular in recent squads and is an able understudy, while Hugo Campagnaro and the relatively unknown Jose Maria Basanta seem to be favoured by Sabella, if anything for their versatility. Trusted they may be but are they the men to help Argentina win a third world title?
There are, however, a number of players so far overlooked who merit a place in the squad and could easily step up into the heart of the defence.