World Cup 2018: How Argentina can go for glory in Russia
The Argentine team was just 90 minutes away from failing to qualify for the World Cup since 1970 but then the little magician took matters in his own hands and saved Argentina from embarrassment by scoring a hat-trick and ensured Argentina made it to Russia.
The qualifying campaign saw a very lethargic Argentine side as in the 18 matches they managed to win only 7 games, drawing 7 and losing 4. In the process La Albiceleste scored just 19 goals and conceded 16.
Argentina has one of the world's best attacking line up with the likes of Messi, Higuain, Aguero, Di Maria, Dybala and Icardi. All these players have been a vital part of their respective clubs and it comes as a surprise that such a talented attacking front could only manage to score 19 goals in 18 matches.
Since Jorge Sampaoli took over Argentina in May 2017, he hasn't been able to establish a definite formation and this has cost Argentina greatly as the entire squad lacks chemistry with one another.
In the past 2 years Argentina's dependency on Messi has been visible as the last time a player other than Messi scored in a competitive match was in November 2016 against Colombia.
After heartbreaks in 3 consecutive finals it might be the last chance for La Pulga to win silverware with the national side.
At the moment it doesn't look like Argentina would be able to go for glory with the likes of Brazil, France, Germany and Spain entering the tournament as favourites. However, if Argentina are able to effectively utilize their attacking prowess anything can happen.
Establishing a formation that allows both Messi and Dybala to play together
Dybala and Messi are both star players for their respective clubs and it's time they step up for their country at football's greatest stage.
In the past it has been clear that Messi and Dybala struggle to play together, but if the gaffer is able to make a formation that allows both Messi and Dybala to play together effectively, it'll be a great boost to the Argentine side, as these 2 players can be clinical in deciding the outcome of games.
One such formation which allows both Messi and Dybala to play together is the 4-2-3-1 wide formation. In this formation Messi will have to drop back to the midfield while Dybala takes up his natural role as a center attacking midfielder.
Messi will have the task to control the midfield from the right while Di Maria will be present at the LM position. In such a scenario Messi will be expected to make runs and deliver crosses into the box for Dybala and Higuain.
In this case Messi will be out of his traditional RW attacking position and it will be important for the attacking duo of Juventus to convert the chances created by Messi.
Effective squad rotation
After establishing a formation that includes both Messi and Dybala, the next big task for Sampaoli will be to effectively rotate the squad in order to keep all players fresh in the month long tournament.
Argentina are expected to finish at the top of their group, and for the knockout stages Argentina needs to prepare for each and every situation.
Sampaoli needs a go-to man except Messi for the days when the Barcelona star is not at the top of his game. The attacking options available to Sampaoli have to be used wisely in order to get favorable results.
The attackers must link with each other well to create dominating attacking periods throughout the match.
Coping with psychological pressure
Argentina will be entering this tournament after losing 3 consecutive finals, and it is safe to say that they will have a certain degree of psychological pressure to win the world cup this time.
It is important that the players and coaching staff turn this pressure into a positive form of motivation. The players must play their natural game by keeping in mind the team's objectives.
They must forget everything that went wrong in the past and only focus on what they can do right in this World Cup.
Creating clinical attacking periods
It is not always necessary that the team that plays well for 90 minutes ends up winning. The match between Celtic and Barcelona at Celtic park in the 2012-13 champions league season is an apt example of that.
Argentina needs to make sure that they have effective attacking periods in games that are not going their way, and are able to make most of the chances that they create in these periods to ensure a favorable result.
In short Argentina need to make sure that even if they are being dominated for 80 minutes in a game, the outcome of that game is decided through the 10 minutes that did go their way.
Argentina's path to glory is not going to be an easy one, and it is important that the players take it one game at at time rather than looking at the big picture all at once.