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Argentina: Will Russia 2018 be Messi’s last chance?

11 June 2018
Every story about Argentina at the FIFA World Cup in Russia starts with Lionel Messi. Turning 31 this summer, this might be his last real shot at the prize he so desperately wants to win. Remiqz takes a look at Argentina’s chances in Russia.
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Chances of winning

Using our unique simulation tool, Remiqz is able to predict the course of the FIFA World Cup. According to our calculations, there is a solid 11.2% chance that Argentina will win the tournament this summer. This makes them the fourth most likely winner of the FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Group D is not an easy group though. Croatia arguably has a better defence than Argentina, and definitely a better midfield. Nigeria are physical, have a good mix of young talent and experience and can counter attack with pace. And since EURO 2016, everybody knows it would be wise not to underestimate Iceland.

Our calculations give Argentina a 93.3% chance of progressing to the next round, but they should beware. One bad game and there is a chance of ending second in this group; in that scenario it is very likely that France is their opponent in the round of 16.

Selection

Argentina have the best player on the planet with Lionel Messi (EPI: 6599). Their squad is littered with attacking talent, featuring household names like Gonzalo Higuaín (EPI: 5040), Paulo Dybala (EPI: 4955) and Sergio Aguëro (EPI: 4864) all jostling for a place in the starting eleven.

There is a dearth of defensive talent though, with defenders from relatively small clubs like Ajax and Torino FC making the squad. For true World Cup contenders, this may not be sufficient. It is also very telling that the nine players with the highest EPI not included in the squad are all attackers and midfielders.

Style of play

Since manager Jorge Sampaoli took over in the summer of 2017, Argentina play his brand of football: attacking and with a high press. This way of playing is harder to imbue in a national side than in a club team though, for the simple reason that there is less time to train together and it is of course also not possible to buy players suited to this style. Sampaoli is eccentric in his selections, with the aforementioned Dybala and Aguëro finding themselves on the bench and lesser known players like Cristian Pavón and Maximiliano Meza in the starting eleven.

Their formation is uncertain because Sampaoli has tried so many, ranging from 3-3-3-1 to 3-4-2-1 to 4-2-3-1. Some things are sure though: Argentina don’t play long balls, but try to build from the ground. It remains to be seen if this Argentina side can do what the manager has in mind. Argentina have shown some difficulties when pressing, and this leaves the already shaky defence exposed to big chances.

When the FIFA World Cup in Qatar commences in 2022, Messi will be 35 years of age, so this seems to be his last chance. With his track record, there is no doubt that Leo will show up when the job needs to be done. But will his team mates?

(Images by Pro Shots)