The injury list for Argentina players for next Wednesday’s friendly against Russia in Moscow has now reached four. Carlos Tevez, Juan Seba Veron, Fernando Gago, and Martin Demichellis have all dropped out of Diego Maradona’s squad. Thus far, only Nicolas Pareja, an olympic gold medalist from 2008 now playing with Espanyol, has been brought in as a replacement. I like the call of Pareja, but I would have really liked to have seen Garay been given a chance instead. I really insist that Ezequiel and Otamendi are the duo to lead the defense in the future. I have to think that Maradona will call a couple more players, especially considering how injuries could be disastrous so close to the Brazil game, so one would think that substitutions would be plentiful at half time. Javier Pastore should be the one called up to replace Veron in my opinion. He is the most dynamic central midfielder Argentina have at the moment, and there is no better time to ween him into the first team that a friendly such as this. New Chelsea target Cristian Ledesma would be ideal to replace Gago, and even more ideal to partner Javier Mascherano in front of the back line. I don’t think Maradona will be as desperate to replace Tevez since he already has so many forwards in the team, but if he does I would like to see Mauro Zarate brought in. The Lazio striker was Aguero’s strike partner in the 2007 U20 World Cup, and he scored the winning goal in the final. He is a great player and can be the natural finisher that the National Team lacks at the moment…In preseason action, Leo Messi put on another great display for Barcelona last night, scoring two great goals. The first was a sensational strike from outside of the area that curled around Casey Keller in the net. I love how Messi rarely shoots for power, always for precision, and this side footed shot was a perfect example of that. One of the only goals I remember Messi really hitting the ball with some “violence” was against Venezuela in a World Cup qualifier all the way back in October of 2007, but what a goal that was (seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpL667gvFfw ) Messi added another right before the break, when he brought down Xavi’s pass before slotting it under Casey Keller. Leo was denied his hat trick by a shot that hit the post shortly before that. A replay of the game can be seen at ESPN360.com (i recommend fast forwarding to at least see Messi’s goals at ’21 and ’41). Messi was also seen at the top of the space needle as Barcelona’s representative to hype the match, and we can see that his “fandom” if you will is really rising. He may not have the charisma of Ronaldinho, but he is certainly more likable than Cristian Ronaldo, and he is, or will soon become the biggest star in the game. I heard a Sportscenter anchor doing the highlights of the match, and he said “Messi will feature much for Argentina in the World Cup next summer” (a nice little advertisement for his network, that will broadcast the World Cup), but I had to think to myself “if we make it.” In other news, the injured Gago is being linked to Atletico Madrid according to Cancha Llena. I think this move would be great for him considering first team football will be far from guaranteed for the former Boca man. Atletico is still a big club and he would play regularly, and it could bring Champions League Football, if they manage to make it through the qualifying rounds. I know Gago has not progressed the way people hoped he would, but I still think he can offer a great deal to la seleccion, but he will only improve with first team football. Anyway, here is how I think Argentina should line up against Russia as of now, although I do not know what other players, if any, will be called in to replace the injured lads:
I do not really see Messi as playing at the top of the midfield diamond, as he does at times for Barca, as a true enganche, but rather in a free role, allowed to play through the middle, or drift off to the flanks. I’m sure Heinze will be picked by Maradona, but I can be hopeful can’t I?