Final Argentina – France. De Paul, Otamendi, Alvarez… Who are Lionel Messi’s lieutenants?

Argentina’s trip to the 2022 World Cup final against France bears deep imprints of Lionel Messi, the technical and intellectual leader of a scorer, passer and otherwise limited group of talents. But from goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to striker Julian Alvarez, Qatar has emerged with several performers and a number of promises.

Julian Alvarez, fast ovary

He was mainly there to learn, but Julian Alvarez stepped up faster than expected and established himself as the starting center forward in the face of Lautaro Martinez’s failure.

The young Manchester City striker (22) has already scored four goals ahead of Sunday’s final. Of course, everything is easier with a genius passer like Messi. But after taking over from Lautaro in the starting line-up, Alvarez performed well and did not succumb to the pressure that sometimes paralyzes some of his teammates.

Since Messi can’t do everything either, he also ran into twos in pressing and made life difficult for opposing goalkeepers and defenders. “It’s normal for him to want to eat the world at his age”head coach Lionel Scaloni concluded his thoughts.

De Paul and Mac Allister, good lieutenants

As well as Alvarez in attack, Rodrigo De Paul and Alexis McAllister were prominent in midfield as the expected starters struggled. De Paul was certainly a potential starter, but the withdrawal of Giovani Lo Celso gave him more responsibility. With a huge amount of competition and real technical strength, the Atletico Madrid player is now essential for Scaloni.

Mac Allister, for his part, is the real surprise of Argentina’s selection in Qatar. The Brighton midfielder is the son of another Argentina international, Carlos Mac Allister, who had two caps with Diego Maradona for Argentina before he became an MP and then Secretary of State for Sport. In Qatar, Mac Allister Jr. compensated for the physical challenges of Angel Di Maria and the disappointing performances of the highly anticipated Leandro Paredes with his versatility.

Otamendi and Romero, strong heads

“We are 26 soldiers, 26 fighters”warned centre-back Nicolas Otamendi after Argentina’s win over the Netherlands after an extremely tight game.

He and Cristian “Cuti” Romero are even on the front line. Not too tall and not too fast, not to mention really slow, Otamendi (34 years, 99 games) is an experienced centre-back who loves duels on the ground or in the air. In Qatar, he has evolved to a level of excellence that we didn’t think he could do anymore.

Nicolas Otamendi is the father of Argentina’s defense. | PHOTO: Jack Guez / AFP

Next to him, Romero represents the future of the Albiceleste in defense. At the age of 24, the owner of “Tottenham” is one of the 19 Argentines who discovered the World Cup. Hesitating at the start of the tournament, he gained momentum. If necessary, Scaloni could even drop back five, bringing in Lisando Martinez, who arrived at Manchester United this summer, and another element of the future.

“Dibu” Martinez, for penalties

The image was very powerful. At the end of the penalty shootout against the Netherlands, all the Argentines rushed to Lautaro Martinez, who scored the last goal.

All but Lionel Messi stayed on the other side of the penalty area to congratulate Oranje goalkeeper Emiliano “Dibu” Martinez, who stopped Argentina’s first two attempts. “I told him that he is an animal, a phenomenon”He slipped Messi.

Against Croatia on Tuesday, “Dibu” was again important from the penalty spot, but this time indirectly: advising Messi to hit Dominic Livakovic hard and high, he found the Croatian goalkeeper very effective and quick at stoppages. ground level.

A no-nonsense keeper and late keeper, Martinez also managed a solid tournament in Qatar, with a crucial stop at the very end of the match against Australia (2-1) in addition to his exploits on the penalty spot.

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