Following a last-minute injury to Juventus hitman Paulo Dybala, Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza has handed out late call-ups to Fernando Belluschi and Ezequiel “Pocho” Lavezzi. While the general consensus is that Belluschi has had a strong start to the season with San Lorenzo and merits his call-up, Bauza’s decision to bring in Lavezzi has left many questioning the national team coach.
Why, you ask? Well, Lavezzi hasn’t even had a start to the season. The former PSG man hasn’t played a minute of football since his broke his left arm in spectacular fashion in the Semi-Final of the Copa América back in June.
Indeed Lavezzi’s injury has meant that he’s not even included in the squad of his new club, Hebei Fortune of the Chinese Super League. And even if he were, run-outs with the Chinese outfit wouldn’t exactly be the best preparation for international football anyway. That said, Lavezzi does bring a wealth of experience to the squad, having already been featured in the 2014 World Cup Final in Brazil. And it’s precisely on account of that experience — and personality — that Bauza has called-up “el Pocho.”
“He is one of the leaders of our group,” Bauza said. “He is a very positive player. He’ll help with team spirit and morale in the the two difficult upcoming fixtures.”
Sure, Edgardo, but if you just needed a morale boost you could take the guys out for a pizza or something (it works for Claudio Ranieri). The fact that Lavezzi hasn’t been playing competitive football can’t simply be ignored while other candidates with strong credentials for a call-up are ignored.
One player who will be disappointed is River striker Lucas Alario, who has been overlooked this time. But the player who will feel the most hard-done-by is the man seen replacing Lavezzi in the above video, Erik Lamela. The Tottenham attacker has been an integral part in his club side’s recent success under fellow Argentine Mauricio Pochettino and he is no stranger to international football. He’s also got this in his locker:
Not bad, eh
But it wasn’t all bad news for those left out of the squad by Bauza, as he opened the door for a potential call-up for controversial Inter forward Mauro Icardi. “Icardi knows that I’m following him and he could be called up at any moment,” Bauza said. “Matters outside of football are irrelevant to him or anyone else.”
With Icardi having already hit the back of the net 8 times in Serie A this season, that statement perhaps isn’t entirely true. Icardi’s recent record is excellent and, disregarding recent controversies and attitude issues (as we should, according to Bauza’s comments), the striker deserves a call up.
But for now he, along with Lamela and Alario, will have to wait for that opportunity. Lavezzi is the man who will join the Argentine squad in their imminent fixtures against Brazil and Colombia. For all the controversy surrounding his call-up, if Lavezzi can help lift his country into the top four of the regional World Cup qualifying group (they currently sit in fifth, one position outside the qualifying positions), we will look back on Bauza’s decision as a masterstroke.