BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Without Lionel Messi, would Argentina even be going to the World Cup?

The team’s destiny is more closely tied to the Barcelona forward than ever before.

There are plenty of doubts for coach Jorge Sampaoli ahead of the tournament in Russia.

Defender Javier Mascherano is reaching the end of his career, while striker Sergio Aguero and midfielder Lucas Biglia both experienced injury problems recently. Paulo Dybala is yet to deliver for his country despite all the promise on display at Juventus.

Much of the squad also carries the burden of mass disappointment, following three successive losses in finals: 2014 World Cup, 2015 Copa America and 2016 Copa America.

Argentina secured its spot in Russia in the last round of South American qualifiers thanks to Messi’s hat trick against Ecuador. The deficiencies in the team were underscored in a 6-1 loss to Spain in a friendly in March.

Here’s a closer look at the Argentina team:

COACH

The 58-year-old Sampaoli took over in June 2017 to replace Edgardo Bauza when Argentina was on the verge of missing a World Cup spot.

Sampaoli was never a footballer and didn’t manage a first division club at home, developing his career in Peru and then Chile. His success at Universidad de Chile pushed him to the Chilean national team in 2012.

At the 2014 World Cup, Sampaoli’s Chile reached the round of 16 but lost to host Brazil on penalties. But a year later, Chile won its first-ever title while hosting the Copa America.

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Source:: The Denver Post – Sports

      

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