Argentina will be hoping to resume their FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign on a positive note, when they take on Chile on Thursday.
Following the end of the 2020/21 European footballing campaign, international football resumes, including the South American World Cup qualifiers, with Argentina locking horns with Chile on Thursday.
A 1-1 draw with Paraguay has been the only dent in La Albiceleste‘s qualifying campaign so far, with three wins in four matches. It puts them second behind Brazil, who currently boast a hundred percent winning record, though that might change when they face third-placed Ecuador on Friday.
It is a must-win encounter for Argentina, nonetheless, as they hope to retain their scoring form before the Copa America kicks off in Brazil later this month.
This could be an even more vital game for their midweek opponent Chile, though, as they have won only one of their opening four matches in World Cup qualifiers. La Roja are currently in sixth place, but could slip further down the table with another defeat against Argentina, allowing the likes of Colombia and even Venezuela to move in front.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their World Cup qualifying encounter in Santiago del Estero this midweek.
Team News & Tactics
— Selección Argentina 🇦🇷 (@Argentina) June 1, 2021
If there is one thing Lionel Scaloni has managed since being appointed as the Argentina coach in 2018, it is to make the team much more resilient at the back. The emergence of Ajax duo Lisandro Martinez and Nicolas Tagliafico has certainly helped, and both of them are indeed guaranteed starter on Thursday.
Emiliano Martinez, too, has established himself as the country’s best goalkeeper following his breakthrough campaign with Aston Villa. He should start in goal, protected by the central defensive duo of Nicolas Otamendi and Martinez as well as full-backs in Tagliafico and Juan Foyth, who might be rewarded with a start after impressive on loan at Villarreal.
Things get even more interesting in central midfield, where Scaloni has four viable options. Leandro Paredes appears to be a guaranteed starter due to his grit and aggression. The PSG star is most likely to be partnered by Rodrigo De Paul, ahead of Guido Rodriguez and Giovani Lo Celso, as the Udinese playmaker can offer more variety in the middle of the park.
De Paul is also very useful for set-pieces, potentially allowing the likes of Otamendi and Martinez to cause problems on the opposition box. The onus, though, will largely be on the actual attacking players, which is a bit difficult to predict given the host of world-class options Scaloni has at his disposal.
Sergio Aguero has recently united with Lionel Messi by joining Barcelona but is not expected to start this game. Instead, Messi may operate alongside Lautaro Martinez, with additional creativity provided by the wingers in Angel Di Maria and Marcos Acuna.
As for the other options, Lucas Ocampos, Angel Correa and Papu Gomez are all viable alternatives while Emiliano Buendia, too, is pushing for his first cap for the national team, following a successful campaign at Norwich City.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Emiliano Martinez; Foyth, Otamendi, Lisandro Martinez, Tagliafico; Di Maria, De Paul, Paredes, Acuna; Messi, Lautaro Martinez
Chile’s newly appointed head coach Martin Lasarte kick-started his reign with a 2-1 success with Bolivia in March – a game where he was without Arturo Vidal.
The former Real Sociedad manager will have to deal with that problem once again, though fortunately for him, Charles Aranguiz is an equally great leader. The Bayer Leverkusen midfielder will hope to partner the more defensive-minded Tomas Alarcon in the double pivot.
🇨🇱 ¡Lunes con L de #LaRoja!
— Selección Chilena (@LaRoja) May 31, 2021
Aranguiz, though, will have the license to drive forward like he usually does at Leverkusen, perhaps even joining the playmaker Cesar Pinares, making it look like a 4-1-4-1 during attacking phases.
Speaking of which, Chile will be heavily relying on the services of their attacking trio, comprising of Alexis Sanchez, Ben Brereton and Jean Meneses to expose the Argentine defence, though Brereton is yet to win his first international cap.
As for the Chilean defence, the deep sitting back four should consist of Mauricio Isla, Sebastian Vegas, Guillerme Maripan and the long-serving left-back Jean Beausejour.
Lasarte, though, also have the option of starting with another experienced veteran in Gary Medel at the heart of the backline, but his lack of pace might hurt Chile’s chances against the mighty Argentine attack.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Bravo; Isla, Vegas, Maripan, Beausejour; Alarcon, Aranguiz; Sanchez, Pinares, Menesese; Brereton
- Argentina and Chile drew goalless when these two sides last met each other back in September 2019, in an international friendly.
- There have been a total of 53 international matches between these two sides, with Argentina dominating with 37 victories compared to Chile’s three.
- Albiceleste have also performed extremely well under Scaloni and are yet to lose a single game since the 2-0 semi-final defeat to Brazil in the 2019 Copa America.
- Chile, in contrast, are playing their second game under newly appointed head coach Martin Lasarte.
- Lionel Scaloni has faced Chile twice so far in his managerial career, winning one while drawing the other one.
Player to Watch
While Messi and Aguero are sure to attract the eyebrows in this midweek affair, it could be a particularly important game for Lisandro Martinez.
It is needless to say that Argentina do not lack the supply of quality attackers, but the defenders have been hard to come by. Until recently, however, the emergence of Martinez as well as Atalanta’s Cristian Romero have served as a boon for Lionel Scaloni.
The 23-year-old has starred for Ajax in their dominating campaign in Eredivisie, emerging as a defensive lynchpin. Martinez, though, only has one cap to his name for Albiceleste, so he will have a point to prove against Chile, knowing a solid display in the next couple of matches could go a long way in helping him become Argentine’s favoured centre-back option for Copa America.
Argentina 2-1 Chile
Argentina have shored up their defence under the leadership of Scaloni but have found it difficult to find the goals so far in the qualifiers. They might face similar problems on Thursday, although they are still the favourites up against a Chile side that has clearly lost its mojo and are in for a difficult month of football. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 for Argentina.