Nothing was easy for Argentina in their tortuous route to Russia 2018. Thanks to their unstoppable captain Lionel Messi, however, the 2014 finalists pulled through and will be in the running for the World Cup. It was Messi, of course, who made the difference, and the Barcelona wizard is the emblem of an attack that oozes talent. Who joins Leo in Russia, and how will Sampaoli build his starting line-up from the 23 players that join the captain in the squad
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Willy Caballero (Chelsea), Franco Armani (River Plate)
Defenders: Gabriel Mercardo (Sevilla), Cristian Ansaldi (Torino), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Federico Fazio (Roma), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisbon), Javier Mascherano (Hebei China Fortune)
Midfielders: Eduardo Salvio (Benfica), Lucas Biglia (AC Milan), Giovani Lo Celso (Paris Saint-Germain), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham), Maximiliano Meza (Atletico Independiente), Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain), Cristian Pavon (Boca Juniors)
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
In defence, starting centre-back pairing Nicolas Otamendi and Federico Fazio are joined by United’s Marcos Rojo, currently recovering from injury, while Javier Mascherano and right-back Gabriel Mercado can also cover the middle.There are also places for Nicolas Tagliafico, Eduardo Salvio, Marcos Acuna and Cristian Ansaldi, the latter appearing apparently from nowhere to take a spot thanks to his versatility in covering both sides of defence.
The centre of midfield sees Lucas Biglia, another man returning from injury, and Ever Banega in prime position to start, while Giovani Lo Celso and Manuel Lanzini add creative options further up the field. There is also no shortage of talent out wide: Angel Di Maria, Maxi Meza, Salvio and Acuna can all cover the flanks, as can Boca youngster Cristian Pavon.
This leaves just four strikers in Sampaoli’s squad, Lionel Messi accompanied in Russia by Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero.
Romero (gk), Otamendi, Mascherano, Rojo, Banega, Biglia, Di Maria, Dybala, Messi (capt), Aguero, Higuain
Goal keeping- 7/10
Forward – 9/10
Iceland: Saturday, June 16 at 2pm
Croatia: Thursday, June 21 at 7pm
Nigeria: Tuesday, June 26 at 7pm