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Monday, May 27, 2024

The Argentina team that should play at the 2026 World Cup

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For the third time in their history, Argentina will head into the next World Cup as reigning champions.

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Arguably the greatest final in the competition’s history saw La Albiceleste lift the trophy following a 3-3 draw after extra time and an eventual 4-2 penalty-shootout victory against France.

It came in good time for some of the Argentine squad, with the likes of Angel Di Maria, Nicolas Otamendi and, of course, Lionel Messi – who effectively shut down that endless debate with his captaining of Argentina’s third star-acquiring squad – finally getting their hands on the World Cup at their (probable) final attempts.

So, with the absence of some of the names we’re so familiar with now, who could line up for Argentina at the 2026 World Cup?

GK: Emiliano Martinez – He’ll win no sportsmanship awards, but he simply won’t care. Neal Maupay has made this guy one of the best goalkeepers in football – and Copa America and World Cup winner’s medals in the space of a year are fair evidence of that. He’ll be 33 by the time we’re gearing up for the 2026 World Cup, which is no age for a shotstopper.

RB: Nahuel Molina – The Atletico Madrid man featured in every game of Argentina’s triumphant 2022 World Cup campaign, starting every knockout round. At just 24 years of age, he has a bright future and has already enshrined himself into Argentine folklore – expect him to add to his 27 caps before the North American World Cup rolls around.

CB: Cristian Romero – Nicolas Otamendi might have performed out of his skin to play every minute of his country’s World Cup-winning journey in Qatar, but the 34-year-old is certainly in the twilight of his career, having earned his 100th cap in the final. A natural heir to the central defender is surely Romero, who already displays a great deal of leadership, as well as diehard patriotism, when donning the famous blue and white stripes – as he did throughout the World Cup this year.

CB: Lisandro Martinez – With Otamendi likely hanging the boots up soon, Martinez seems the wise choice to slot into the back four. The Manchester United defender might have started just twice in Qatar but regularly impressed with opportunity. Should his club form continue over the coming years, he should be a shoo-in for a spot in the Albiceleste side.

LB: Facundo Medina – The likes of Marcos Acuna and Nicolas Tagliafico will be past their best by the time 2026 arrives upon us, but just entering his prime will be Facundo Medina. Although capped just twice, the 23-year-old Lens man was in Argentina’s preliminary squad for the tournament in Qatar, and could well be given a role to play in the final squad in four years’ time.

CM: Rodrigo De Paul – Starting every game in Qatar, De Paul was one of Argentina’s key men at the 2022 World Cup. Bite and tenacity are hallmarks of the dogged midfielder’s game and, set to be in his very early 30s when La Albiceleste defend their crown in North America, he could well be favoured to complement his nation’s smooth creativity in 2026.

Enzo Fernandez, Alexis Mac Allister

Argentina’s midfield shouldn’t experience too much tinkering in the forthcoming years / Markus Gilliar – GES Sportfoto/GettyImages

CM: Enzo Fernandez – If the 2022 World Cup was anything to go by, 21-year-old Enzo Fernandez is going to be an incredibly hard man to push out of the Argentina side in the next four years and far beyond. Picking up the Young Player of the Tournament accolade, the Benfica dynamo came to Qatar with just three caps – having made his Argentina debut in September – but left an absolute certainty in the first XI.

CM: Alexis Mac Allister – Capping off what should well be an unchanged midfield from Argentina’s 2022 triumph is Mac Allister. Premier League fans will have already known the quality the Brighton man possesses, but he certainly broadcasted it to the world as he played a starring role in his nation’s third star. At just 24, he’ll be bossing it in his prime years when the next World Cup comes around, and he’s definitely already proved his capabilities on the biggest stage.

AM: Paulo Dybala – This is where the nostalgia is going to come steamrolling through in four years’ time. The likes of Messi and Di Maria will have passed the sky blue and pure white baton down to the next generation by the time we set sail for the 2026 World Cup, leaving huge shoes to fill for their heirs. Dybala was once described as the next Messi and, although injury curtailed his World Cup in Qatar, his undeniable brilliance will hopefully be able to shine through next time.

ST: Alejandro Garnacho – Manchester United’s electric teenager Garnacho made Argentina’s preliminary squad for the 2022 World Cup but, should he continue progressing at lightspeed in the shining spotlight, he’ll be set for global stardom at the 2026 World Cup – by which time he’ll still only be 22 years of age.

ST: Julian Alvarez – Collective determination and responsibility was a key theme of Argentina’s success in 2022, epitomised by the tireless running of Alvarez around the talismanic beacon of Messi. With Garnacho, Alvarez could well be in for a similar role around Dybala four years from now. After a four-goal haul and a generally brilliant maiden World Cup campaign, there doesn’t seem any other option than Manchester City’s Alvarez for the Argentine forward line now.

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