Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli has defended his decision to omit Inter striker Mauro Icardi from his 23-man World Cup squad for Russia this summer, citing he wants individuals who ‘identify with our style of play as closely as possible’.
Speaking to the gathering world’s media as the Chilean revealed his final selections for this summer, Sampaoli is quoted by Football Italia as wanting players for his team who offer versatility but above all fit La Albiceleste’s current brand of football.
Sampaoli stated: “We came to this list after long and meticulous analysis.
“The players I called up identify with our style of play as closely as possible. For example: I chose Ansaldi because he’s a full-back who can play on both sides.”
Two-time World champions Argentina struggled to qualify for this summer’s tournament since the former Chilean national team coach took over after leaving Sevilla in May of last year.
His transition into the Argentina set-up, however, has been far from seamless. It took a Lionel Messi hat-trick against Ecuador in their final qualifying game to scrape through, after Sampaoli elected to omit the likes of Paulo Dybala from the starting XI to accommodate his plans – to their detriment.
The Chilean’s decisions have thusly come under fire and his latest one has and will likely leave many scratching their heads.
Icardi finished joint-top scorer this term in Serie A with Lazio forward Ciro Immobile, as both finished the campaign on 29 goals. In three of his last four seasons, the 25-year-old from Rosario has scored 20-plus goal for the Nerazzurri.
In his squad announcement, Sampaoli also left out Roma’s Diego Perotti and Atalanta’s Alejandro Gomez, but the Chilean tactician explained his reasons.
“Icardi, Perotti, Papu Gomez and Lautaro Martinez won’t come to Russia with us”, said the Chielan. “But they’re still good players, who could be in our attack.”
“There’s also [Dario] Benedetto, for example, who helped us a lot in qualifying but is now injured.”
After a troubled qualifying campaign, the Chilean will be under huge pressure to progress from Group D this summer. Dubbed the “group of death”, Argentina will face Croatia, Nigeria and Iceland, who they kick off their World Cup campaign against on June 16 in Moscow.