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Rio Olympics 2016: Argentina's football squad looks weak but talented

Can Argentina cope with the absence of their star players at the Games?

The Argentina squad will not see these three jerseys at the Rio Olympics

Ever since the great Lionel Messi announced his retirement from international football after the defeat in the final match of the Copa America Centenario in USA, there have been talks of who will be the next Messi for Argentina or even for world football.

What his unofficial retirement has done is that the Argentina side without him looks very weak. Even though the senior side still has the likes of Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain, the team does not seem to have that cutting edge without the Barcelona star in it.

But when we look at the Argentine squad for the Olympics, it does not have any big name players in it. The most notable inclusion is that of young Premier League sensation, Manuel Lanzini. The West Ham United player had a great first season in England and he will be looking to do the same for his national side in Brazil.

However, there are not many experienced players accompanying him to the Olympics. This is how the 18-man Argentina squad for the Rio Olympics looks like:

PositionPlayerAgeClub
GoalkeeperGeronimo Rulli24Real Sociedad
GoalkeeperAxel Werner20Atletico de Rafaela
DefenderVictor Cuesta27Independiente
DefenderLisandro Magallan22Boca Juniors
DefenderLautaro Gianetti22Velez Sarsfield
DefenderJose Luiz Gomez22Lanus
DefenderAlexis Soto22Banfield
DefenderLeandro Vega20River Plate
MidfielderSantiago Ascacibar19Estudiantes
MidfielderManuel Lanzini23West Ham United
MidfielderGiovani Lo Celso20Rosario Central
MidfielderMauricio Martinez23Union
MidfielderLucas Romero22Cruzeiro
ForwardJonathan Calleri22Sao Paulo
ForwardAngel Correa21Atletico Madrid
ForwardJoaquin Correa21Sampdoria
ForwardCristian Espinoza21Huracan
ForwardGiovanni Simeone21River Plate

The squad also boasts the likes of Atletico Madrid’s Angel Correa and River Plate’s 20-year old Leandro Vega. The former has had little playing time at the Madrid club where he has scored 9 goals in 24 appearances. But the forward is considered as one of the best young strikers in Argentina.

He will be in Rio to prove a point to his critics and to earn more playing time at his club in Spain. The Under-23 team head coach, Julio Olarticoechea, has only picked two over-age players in his squad and it will be interesting to see how that move works out for his side. 

Also Read: Rio Olympics 2016: 5 major contenders for gold in football

Real Sociedad goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli is one of the over-age players in the side at 24. He will be expected to start for the team when they play their first game against Under-21 Euro finalists Portugal in Rio De Janeiro. The other over-age player is defender Victor Cuesta who had a great season with his club Independiente in the Argentine league.

Although the lack of experience may hinder Argentina’s success in the tournament.

West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini will be the main man for Argentina at the Games

Previous Argentine squads for the Olympics have all had star players –  the likes of Mascherano and Carlos Tevez in 2004 – Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria in 2008. This squad does not have any teenage sensation or a world-class player in its ranks.

Argentina’s competitors at the tournament have all picked three over-age experienced players in the team. The fact that these players have played together at the Under-20 and Under-23 level might be a positive for them, but it does not guarantee success.

Also Read: Rio Olympics 2016: History of Olympic football

Argentina had not rested any top player for the Copa America, therefore they do not have any fresh players for the Olympics. This tactic may cause them a chance at the medals because other countries have good teams. The Swedish and Portuguese sides had reached the Under-21 Euro finals and Brazil has picked Neymar and Douglas Costa.

The inexperience in midfield could be a huge worry for the South American team as none of the players have played international football before. Their clubs have also not competed at the highest level and it might create a problem for Argentina as their squad looks very weak.

However, there is no doubt as to what the Argentines are capable of as they have won the gold medal twice in 2004 and 2008. But when they step foot in Brazil, everyone will be starting from scratch. It is now upto these young players to take the Argentine juggernaut forward at the Games by producing quality football.

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