The 2022 World Cup Squad Guides Part 9: Argentina | World Cup 2022

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This article is part of Guardian’s World Cup 2022 Expert Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organizations from the 32 qualifying countries. theguardian.com is showing previews from two countries every day ahead of the tournament, which begins on November 20.

The plan

It is the first time that Argentina arrives at a World Cup in calm. Excited, yes, but also calm. The biggest strength is the collective of the team, the fact that everyone works hard for each other and this has been emphasized many times over the past four years. Everyone in the team – in the group in fact – knows their role: it’s a well-oiled machine.

The current cycle began towards the end of 2018 after Jorge Sampaoli’s disastrous tenure, which included an exit from the Russian World Cup round of 16 and problems off and on the pitch. Lionel Scaloni, who had been Sampaoli’s assistant, took over on an interim basis – along with Pablo Aimar – and the former Deportivo La Coruña and Lazio player never looked back.

His contract was extended to include the 2019 Copa América, in which Argentina finished third, and finally to include the same tournament two years later as well as the World Cup. Argentina didn’t always perform well under Scaloni and there were times when the team seemed unsure of how to play, even confused, but slowly things fell into place.

Scaloni ruled out some players who were coming towards the end of their careers and stuck to his decisions to form a cohesive unit that enters the World Cup unbeaten in 35 games, just two short of the record set by Roberto Mancini’s Italy in 2018 and 2021. Scaloni was criticized at first, but that noise is gone now.

Part of that Argentinian run included winning the 2021 Copa América, the country’s first major title in 28 years. Beating Brazil in the final at the Maracanã made the triumph even sweeter. In June, Argentina won the “Finalissima” against Italy 3-0 at Wembley with an utterly dominating performance.

The team has a mix of experience and youth and, of course, Lionel Messi. Argentina is going to Qatar with the aim of winning the World Cup, it is a dream for the whole country and, above all, “La Pulga”. There are many in Argentina who believe football owes Messi a World Cup.

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