Argentina Can Win Without Lionel Messi

without Lionel Messi
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 23: The players of Argentina line up prior to the International friendly match between Argentina and Italy at Etihad Stadium on March 23, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images)

Argentina continued their warm-up for Russia 2018 by playing Italy in Manchester without their superstar. Perhaps the many who stayed away had guessed he would not be in action. Those that did attend saw that the South Americans can win without Lionel Messi. As they beat an Italian side still recovering from their failure to qualify for the World Cup finals by two goals.

A Win Without Lionel Messi

A team without the global superstar still featured players to admire in the Argentina lineup. In the first period, Di Maria looked the most likely to break the deadlock with his pace and skill down the left. And he should have given his side the lead just before the interval. At the back tall Roma defender Federico Fazio always represented a solid presence and Nicolas Tagliafico looked an enterprising left back. Gonzalo Higuain managed an air shot when aiming at a cross but later set up the second goal. Overall Argentina had more of the ball and kept Buffon reasonably busy.

What They Lacked

But Sampaoli’s side obviously lacked the kind of magic that Messi can produce. There was also no Paolo Dybala to offer up his brand of number 10 creativity. And in addition, the locals couldn’t cheer Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero either. But Argentina could call on Ever Banega and he engineered the opening goal, past a static Buffon. West Ham’s Lanzini would add another late on to seal the 2-0 friendly victory.

Not Favourites

Argentina showed they can win without Lionel Messi but in this encounter, they often lacked sparkle. Rated fifth best to win the World Cup by most bookmakers the team will have to rely on their superstar to elevate themselves up alongside Spain, Brazil and Germany. At a chilly, half-empty, Etihad stadium the fans witnessed Hamlet without the Prince, despite their pleading chants for Messi to appear.

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