Argentina look set to keep Julian Alvarez in attack for Sunday’s World Cup final against France after he scored twice in a devastating combination with Lionel Messi in the semi-final.
Following is Argentina’s probable starting 11:
The 30-year-old Aston Villa goalkeeper, nicknamed “Dibu” for a freckled cartoon character, breathes confidence and charisma into the team from the back. He has pulled off some show-stopping saves in Qatar, including two in the quarter-final shootout against the Netherlands, joyfully dancing in front of fans and on a table in the changing room.
After the embarrassment of being part of a defence that let lowly Saudi Arabia score twice in their opening defeat at the World Cup, the 24-year-old Tottenham Hotspur centre back has recovered his poise and helped Argentina keep three clean sheets in their five-match winning run to the final.
Romero’s central defence partner, Otamendi, who plays for Benfica, is a decade older at 34 and has oozed experience in Qatar. He has helped Argentina’s historically vulnerable defence show calm and solidity at the back in the main, with the exception of a mad five minutes against the Saudis and another crazy two-goal comeback by the Dutch before a shootout.
The 24-year-old right back plays for Atletico Madrid and made his debut in mid-2021. He scored his first goal for the national side in the World Cup quarter-final against the Dutch, which Argentina won on penalties after a 2-2 draw.
The 30-year-old Lyon left back played superbly against Croatia in the semi-final and offers Argentina defensive solidity. He could, though, be replaced by Marcos Acuna if coach Lionel Scaloni opts for a more forward-pressing lineup.
A defensive midfielder with Juventus, 28-year-old Paredes has featured in four of Argentina’s World Cup games – infamously booting the ball at the Netherlands’ bench in the quarter-final. He might, though, be sacrificed for defender Lisandro Martinez should Scaloni decide to go with five at the back or for Angel Di Maria should he want to pack the front line.
Rodrigo De Paul
The tough 28-year-old Atletico de Madrid midfielder has been a stalwart in Scaloni’s World Cup starting lineup, even playing through injury against the Dutch. He is loved by fans for being Lionel Messi’s unofficial “bodyguard”, always on his shoulder and shaking off unwanted attention.
Alexis Mac Allister
With a family name reflecting Irish and Scottish heritage connections, Mac Allister, 23, plays for Brighton in the Premier League. He made his debut for Argentina in 2019 but was then dropped from the squad until earlier this year, and scored his first goal for the “blue-and-white” against Poland in Qatar.
The 21-year-old Benfica midfielder, who is the subject of intense transfer rumours including a possible move to Liverpool, became Argentina’s second youngest scorer at a World Cup – behind Messi – with his goal against Mexico. He followed it up less gloriously with a deflected own goal that set up a nervy finish in the 2-1 last 16 win over Australia.
The 22-year-old speedy striker’s start to life with Manchester City has been overshadowed by the brilliance of Erling Haaland, but in Qatar he has shone, eventually displacing Lautaro Martinez from the starting lineup and scoring twice in Argentina’s comfortable semi-final win over Croatia.
Who does not know this little genius? The 35-year-old Paris St Germain forward is on a mission to lift his first World Cup at his fifth and final attempt and has been simply magnificent, scoring five goals while creating others with his dribbling and passing wizardry.
- FIFA WORLD CUP 2022
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