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The squads are beginning to be announced; the countdowns, set; Lionel Messi and co, ready to finally put an end to the misery that usually comes with a World Cup. And, with that, a spokesperson for All About Argentina believes that ‘after a very long time, the team is entering the World Cup knowing the identity and idea of their game.’ 

Perhaps that’s the difference this time, too. This is no longer a squad built on the hope of Messi’s magic paying dividends. An individualistic side now bears the look of a team set to provide the moment that all of La Albiceleste have so longingly desired. This time around, fresh faces surround the experience of players who have suffered the pain of Mario Gotze’s dagger to the heart in 2014, of Kylian Mbappe’s almost literal taking of the torch in Russia. And it is one of those fresh faces who All About Argentina singled out, saying: “I think one of the breakout stars of the tournament will be Enzo Fernández.”

The 21-year-old midfielder made his international debut as recently as September, doing more than enough to impress Lionel Scaloni. For Benfica this season, Fernández has been a standout in a side that went toe-to-toe with what is an all-star PSG side, before even beating them to top spot in Group H of the Champions League.

Every four years, we see the birth of football’s next best thing (James Rodriguez says hello). Would it be jumping the gun to agree with All About Argentina’s claim that Fernandez could be Qatar’s unexpected star? The midfielder outranks some of Europe’s best when it comes to pass success, whether that be progressive passing or a more conserved approach. 

Perhaps most impressively, Fernandez completes 3.94 passes leading to a shot attempt per-90. By comparison, Jude Bellingham, hailed by many as one of the best young players around, makes 2.36, according to FBref.  So, whilst the protagonist will be Messi, the spotlight may just occasionally redirect itself onto the next in line for the Argentine throne. 

Fernandez may even end Scaloni’s search to replace the injured Giovani Lo Celso, who, as admitted by All About Argentina, is ‘fundamental’ to this side. When asked about current injuries, they said: “Dybala’s recovery is going really well and it’s a big chance he will be at Qatar. Not Dybala, but there’s a huge chance that Giovani Lo Celso will miss the tournament, the player who is fundamental for Lionel Scaloni and his ideas. To be honest, this team needs Lo Celso more than Dybala.”

Of course, they won’t be without their obstacles, as revealed by the injuries, but with one last chance for Messi to truly cement what is the ultimately legacy, one can’t help but think that this time, even amongst the disgrace that is this very stage, Argentina will avoid heartache, and instead achieve the true satisfaction of success.

Like any fan, however, All About Argentina, perhaps speaking for the entire fan base, avoided any chance of applying the dreaded curse of confidence when asked about their country’s World Cup chances, saying: “I prefer not to say anything here.”

You can drop All About Argentina a follow on Twitter here: @AlbicelesteTalk

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May 2024