Lionel Messi has been named in Argentina’s final 26-man World Cup squad as he bids to win the tournament for the first time.
Announcing the squad on Friday afternoon, head coach Lionel Scaloni named Messi alongside five Premier League stars including Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister.
Argentina are bidding to win the tournament for the first time since 1986 having won it two editions prior to that in 1978.
Their campaign gets underway on November 22 against Saudi Arabia before they face Mexico four days later. Group C’s conclusion sees them face Poland on November 30.
Messi would complete the career haul of trophies were he to win football’s grandest prize in Qatar on December 18.
Alongside Messi, Scaloni, who seemingly broke World Cup 2022 convention by naming the squad with a run-of-the-mill read out of the 26 names, has named a strong squad with a number of faces recognisable to Premier League viewers.
Aston Villa’s Emi Martinez, after his Copa America heroics in 2021 gifted Messi his first taste of success on the international stage, is likely to be handed the number one shirt for the tournament.
Meanwhile, Tottenham’s Cristian Romero and Manchester United’s Lisandro Martinez, both tough-tackling, no-nonsense centre backs with versatility, could also be given the nod by Scaloni.
Mac Allister, perhaps the most surprising name in the squad, has played himself in thanks to a series of impressive performances for Brighton – not least in recent weeks against Chelsea and Wolves.
Julian Alvarez, long thought to be the heir to the Argentine throne when Messi eventually abdicates, is included among the forwards.
His opportunities, as they have been at Manchester City this season, could prove to be few and far between, however, with the former River Plate man competing with the likes of Paulo Dybala and Lautaro Martinez for a starting berth.
Notable other names include Nicolas Otamendi, formerly of City now plying his trade in Portugal with Benfica. Meanwhile, former Tottenham full-back Juan Foyth is also included.
Leandro Parades, who left Paris Saint Germain this summer for Juventus, is likely to enjoy a prominent role in midfield. His team-mate in Turin, Angel Di Maria, another veteran of the unsuccessful 2014 and 2018 campaigns, is back and bidding to win the tournament for what will likely prove to be his final opportunity.
Enzo Fernandez, who has been so impressive for Benfica this season having only joined from River Plate in the summer, is included as expected. He will be looking to add to his two Argentina caps.
As is so often the case with the Argentine squad, it appears somewhat top heavy with a wealth of attacking talent for Scaloni to call upon. Messi is of course a certain starter with the likes of Papu Gomez and Joaquin Correa to call upon.
The 2018 campaign was marred by squad in-fighting with the then-head coach Jorge Sampaoli – it reached such a nadir that rumours circulated that he in fact did not pick the team for their third and final group stage match against Nigeria which they had to win.
They went out to France in the last 16 having been on the losing side of one of the World Cup’s all-time great matches with the French winning out 4-3 winners.
Going into the tournament South American champions after a 1-0 victory over Brazil at the Maracana in Rio last summer, Argentina harbour hopes of going far. Messi and co. are closing in on Italy’s 37-game unbeaten streak (a record). They are 35 unbeaten at present.
Argentina also won the third edition of Finalissima against European champions Italy at Wembley earlier this year.
They have reached the final on two occasions since 1986 – their last success. Italia 90 saw them defeated by West Germany while 2014 saw them again lose to Germany 1-0.
The squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Emi Martínez, Franco Armani, Geronimo Rulli
Defenders: Nahuel Molina, Gonzalo Montiel, Cristian Romero, German Pezzella, Nicolas Otamendi, Lisandro Martínez, Marcos Acuna, Nicolas Tagliafico, Juan Foyth
Midfielders: Leandro Paredes, Guido Rodriguez, Rodrigo De Paul, Exequiel Palacios, Alexis Mac Allister, Enzo Fernandez, Angel Di María, Nico Gonzalez
Forwards: Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala, Papu Gomez, Lautaro Martínez, Julian Alvarez, Joaquin Correa