One of the most in-form teams in international football will go into November’s World Cup finals in a completely different shape than they did four years ago.

Argentina were beset by problems and struggles in Russia and eventually crashed out of the tournament at the hands of France as Lionel Messi was upset by his future Paris Saint-Germain teammate, Kylian Mbappe.

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The contrast couldn’t be clearer now and the main issues for coach Lionel Scaloni aren’t so much the headaches of welcome choices, such as who to pair up in central defense and central midfield, as well as the intense but Administering the inevitable scrutiny that will encompass What, at 35, could be Messi’s last shot at World Cup glory. Friendlies against Honduras and Jamaica in the United States in the coming days give Scaloni a chance for a fine tune.

Argentina’s 5-0 victory over Ecuador in June, when Messi scored all five goals – four days after the Copa America winners beat European champions Italy 3-0 in the so-called competition. Finalissima At Wembley – Extension of Abiceleste Unbeaten in 33 matches. Scaloni’s side have not tasted defeat since losing 2-0 to Brazil in the semi-finals of the Copa America more than three years ago, a defeat they avenged in last summer’s final in Rio de Janeiro. Taken at the Maracana. It was, remarkably, Messi’s first major trophy with Argentina and the country’s first since 1993.

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Argentina’s renaissance under Scaloni has been based on defensive cohesion, hard work and unity, all while reducing reliance on Messi and allowing the seven-time player of the year to work his magic. has provided a platform for Ironically, in the twilight of his career, this could represent Messi’s best chance yet to avoid a major honor and the one he wants most. After a difficult debut campaign at PSG, he has started this season in superb form, with six goals and eight assists in 11 appearances, and will hope to carry that form to Qatar.

Scaloni appears to have found the ideal foil in Messi’s att*ck alongside Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez, but he can also call upon the likes of Nicolas Gonzalez, Joaquin Correa, Paulo Dybala and Manchester City’s exciting young talent Julian Alvarez. . In defensive midfield, he has to choose between Leandro Paredes, currently on loan at Juventus from PSG, or Real Betis’ Guido Rodriguez.

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In defence, Scaloni has to decide whether to partner the likes of Manchester United’s Lesandro Martinez and Tottenham’s Cristian Romero – both in good form for their clubs – or trust veteran Nicolas Otamendi. Now 34, Otamendi’s best days are behind him but the former Manchester City centre-half – now at Benfica – has been a key figure in helping to unite the squad with other experienced heads such as Di Maria and Messi.

Indeed, injuries to key personnel appear to be the biggest threat to Argentina’s cohesion ahead of its World Cup opener against Saudi Arabia on November 22.

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