Italy’s disastrous failure to qualify for the World Cup left most Serie A followers with little to look forward to in the tournament. However, some of Serie A’s biggest stars will still take part.
Throughout the years, Argentinian players have always thrived in Serie A and some of La Albiceleste’s finest talents have plied their trade in the Peninsula. The likes of Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Mauro Icardi are following the footsteps of legends like Diego Maradona, Gabriel Batistuta, Hernan Crespo and Javier Zanetti.
Dybala would probably be a crucial starting XI player for every other country on the globe, but Argentina’s enormous talent in attack means that La Joya’s place in the World Cup squad is far from certain and the 888sport odds for the tournament look good for Argentina even without him. The presence of Lionel Messi, who has similar characteristics, usually leaves Dybala with little or no playing time even when the Juventus star does get called up to represent his country. While leaving Messi out of the starting XI is not an option for Jorge Sampaoli, in the rare cases in which he has tried playing both Messi and Dybala, it was evident that they lack cohesion, which affected the team’s performance negatively.
However, Dybala is so talented that leaving him out of the starting XI would be hard, while not calling him up for the World Cup would be equal to a crime. The ex-Palermo man is one of those players that can lift any team in difficult situations and his ability to produce something out of nothing is another quality that makes him unique, even in an Argentinian squad with so many world class options.
Another Juventus player who can potentially be a crucial point of Argentina’s team is Gonzalo Higuain. The powerful No 9 has improved his physical and goal-scoring condition massively in the last couple of months and deservedly regained his place in the squad after missing several games.
Higuain’s displays in Serie A show how consistent the former Napoli man has become, while his off-the-ball movement and link-up play demonstrate his importance even in the rare cases when he is not on the score-sheet.
Higuain’s performances in the Champions League have also improved significantly. With five goals to his name so far, Higuain already matched his record from last season, when Juve reached the final. His three goals and one assist against Tottenham mean that he was involved in every goal that the Bianconeri scored in the Round of 16.
While Argentina supporters constantly label Higuain as a ‘big-game choker’, his performances in recent years say otherwise. With his improving physical condition, the ‘fat’ jokes are getting boring as well and unless his form drops dramatically or an unfortunate injury occurs, Higuain will be leading his country’s attack at the World Cup once again.
Mauro Icardi is another Serie A player who is showing signs of rediscovering his best form after scoring four goals in Inter’s 5-0 win against Sampdoria last Sunday. When it comes to just putting the ball in the back of the net, Icardi is one of the best not just in Serie A, but probably in Europe. His outstanding sense of positioning in the six-yard box, as well as his ability to score with almost every part of his body, make him one of the deadliest poachers in the game.
However, prior the victory against Sampdoria, Icardi had scored just once in eight games and he is yet to break the duck in an Argentina jersey. His hold-up play and passing ability is also something that can harm his chances of breaking into his nation’s team, as his average of 13.8 passes per game with a 74.8% completion rate is questionable at best.
The latest snub of the Inter captain means that his chances of making the trip to Russia at the beginning of June are not looking good. Nonetheless, despite that and all of his flaws, Icardi is a pure old-fashioned goalscorer and which team does not need that?
It’s also a big recognition for Roma and Serie A to see Federico Fazio and Diego Perotti in Sampaoli’s latest selection. The Giallorossi duo deserve credit for their performances and despite not being established superstars like the majority of their national side’s teammates, a call up and even a place in the starting XI at the World Cup is something that would suit them well.
Lucas Biglia is another one who was selected for Argentina’s friendlies against Spain and Italy. While his displays since moving to Milan haven’t really been the most impressive, his experience and Argentina’s limited options in midfield mean that the former Lazio captain has a good chance of representing his country.
Papu Gomez is a player who the majority of Serie A followers would love to see at the World Cup, but given his slight drop of form for Atalanta as well as the competition for places with the likes of Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Higuain, Dybala and Icardi, mean that unfortunately we probably won’t see the famous Papu Dance in Russia this summer.
Overall, regardless of the choice that Sampaoli makes in regards to Dybala, Higuain and Icardi, Serie A will have a very strong presence in the Argentina squad for the World Cup. With Italy out of the tournament, it wouldn’t be surprising to see many Italy fans cheering for Argentina.