Lionel Messi and the rest of Argentina’s foreign legion are once more back on native soil, as they prepare for two key clashes on the road to qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The team skippered by the Barcelona whiz kid will take on Paraguay in Córdoba on Friday before travelling to Lima four days later to meet Perú, and the media has been whipped into a familiar frenzy by the return of the European greats.

Alejandro Sabella’s men come back to South America in fine form, and for a football bet six points out of six in the upcoming two fixtures certainly does not look too ambitious. But for fans of the Argentina game, even more encouraging news can be found in the local league. Often maligned for its lack of quality, the Primera Division has exploded in 2012 with an injection of young talent surely set for great things.

Using, of course, the classic local 4-3-1-2 formation with the mythical Enganche, Argentina Football World is delighted to introduce the kids that will be knocking hard on Sabella’s door in the not-too distant future.

Goalkeeper: Agustín Marchesín (Lanús). The oldest member of our team at 24, allowing for the fact that shot-stoppers tend to develop a little later than their on-pitch companions. Marchesín is already an international and has been included in several senior Albiceleste squads, and at the age of 20 was already a regular starter in a club known for putting their faith in the pibes. Not the most spectacular keeper, but very solid and makes very few mistakes.

Defence: Gino Peruzzi (Vélez), Lisandro López (Arsenal de Sarandí), Guillermo Burdisso (Boca Jrs.), Juan Sanchez Miño (Boca Jrs.)

The backline has without a doubt been the weakest part of the Selección in recent years, but this new generation may just change that. 19-year-old Peruzzi sprung into the public consciousness with a masterful display in the Copa Libertadores, doing as good a marking job on Neymar as any other right-back in the world. He has carried that form into the Inicial, and netted a fine effort last week against San Martin to set the ball rolling on a 3-0 victory.

In the centre we find the two men whose defensive talents were the cornerstone of Arsenal’s Clausura triumph earlier in the year. López and Burdisso both stand out for their aerial play, and regularly find the net to form an invaluable attacking option. They are no slouches on the ground either, and are more than happy to play the ball out from the back and set up the counter. The defensive quartet is completed by Sanchez Miño, who is also equally comfortable playing in the midfield. The 20-year-old has wowed observers with his bursts from deep and intelligent distribution, and a wonderful free kick against Independiente also demonstrated his goal-scoring potential.

Midfield: Ricardo Centurión (Racing Club), Ezequiel Cirigliano (River Plate), Guido Pizarro (Lanús).

Having played just two senior games prior to the start of the Inicial, ‘Wachiturro’ Centurión has exploded like a hand grenade onto the Primera scene, tormenting defenders across the country with his quick feet and lightning acceleration. More often than not the answer is to hit hard; in Monday’s clash with San Martin, three Verdinegro players saw a yellow card for their uncompromising treatment of the 19-year-old.

To complete the midfield we have opted for the classic doble cinco, essentially two in the centre whose principle job is to harry, recover the ball and move it forward. Cirigliano was one of the revelations of River’s Nacional B promotion campaign, and in the winter transfer window was linked to clubs all over Europe, notably Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, before eventually staying put. Pizarro, meanwhile, has gradually grown into a vital cog in the Lanús midfield, and was destined for Fiorentina at the turn of the year before passport issues frustrated the transfer.

Enganche: Lucas Mugni (Colón):

The obvious choice here would have been to delve into the ranks of the ‘big two’, and opt for either Manuel Lanzini of River, better than ever after a loan spell at Fluminense; or Leandro Paredes, who has impressed in the handful of appearances he has made in Boca and who was given Román Riquelme’s 10 shirt for the Copa Sudamericana campaign.

Coming a little out of left-field, however, we see Colón starlet Lucas Mugni carrying the 10 for our crack unit. The 20-year-old pushed into contention when Roberto Sensini took over in Santa Fe, and possesses brilliant passing vision as well as the pace to mean he has no trouble drifting wide left and attacking from the flanks. Tall for an Argentine Enganche at 1.82m, Mugni also possesses the strength to hold off defenders and has already notched a couple of goals – including the first in the Sabalero’s recent Sudamericana meeting with Racing.

Forwards: Luciano Vietto (Racing Club) and Facundo Ferreyra (Vélez Sarsfield).

Vietto was introduced to the Racing first team at just 17 by Diego Simeone towards the end of 2011, and has predominately figured from the bench at the Avellaneda club. Given a start this Monday against San Martin, however, the teenager grabbed his chance with both hands. Vietto netted with his right, left and his head for a memorable hat-trick, and as the so-called mediapunta  (second forward) he brings intelligence, pace and a wicked shot to the team.

‘Chucky’ first came to prominence in the 2011 South American Under-20 Championships, when he displaced the much-vaunted Rogelio Funes Mori from the Argentine starting line-up and finished as the squad’s top goalscorer. His strike rate suffered in the past year from being in a dreadful Banfield team, but now a Vélez player his strong, direct play should work wonders as part of one of the most consistent, settled sides in the Primera.

by Dan Edwards


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