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No Icardi in Sampaoli's Argentina squad for World Cup 2018

It was always going to be a strong squad, but questions remained over who would make Jorge Sampaoli's 23-man party for this summer's tournament in Russia.
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No Icardi in Sampaoli's Argentina squad for World Cup 2018
Amilcar Orfali Getty Images

Another day, another World Cup 2018 squad announcement. And Jorge Sampaoli's 23-man Argentina squad set for their Russian adventure was one that was eagerly awaited.

No Icardi for Argentina

For a squad so heavily identified through the prism of Barcelona star Lionel Messi, it was the supporting cast, especially that in the attacking areas, that had fans and observers intrigued. One name in particular was that of Inter Milan's hot goal-scorer, Mauro Icardi, who, as per stories leaked before the official announcement, was omitted from the group. With only two out-and-out strikers in Agüero and Higuaín, this was seen as questionable at best, with some close to the situation speaking openly about this not being solely a footballing decision.

Argentina Squad Announcement for FIFA Russia 2018Jorge Sampaoli coach of Argentina looks on during the Argentina squad announcement for FIFA Russia 2018.

Sampaoli spoke to the press after naming his squad and made it clear that the players chosen were tactical, based on what he thinks they need to do well at this World Cup. And although he was not brimming with confidence about the country's chances of going one step further than four years ago in Brazil, felt that they were in with a chance of winning the famous trophy:

"If we truly show how we can play, we will be a difficult opponent for anyone"

Confirmed Argentina squad for 2018 World Cup

Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero, Franco Armani, Willy Caballero.

Defenders: Cristian Ansaldi, Marcos Rojo, Marcos Acuña, Nicolás Tagliafico, Gabriel Mercado, Nicolás Otamendi, Javier Mascherano, Federico Fazio.

Midfielders: Ever Banega, Lucas Biglia, Eduardo Salvio, Cristian Pavón, Maximiliano Meza, Ángel Di María, Manuel Lanzini, Giovani Lo Celso.

Forwards: Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala, Kun Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín.

Argentina World Cup squad announcement: as it broke

Thank you for joining us...

And that's that!! Sampaoli finishes off and we're done for the moment with still some questions fully unanswered about the choices made. Everyone will have their opinions; only one counts. It's now just 24 days until Russia opens its doors to the footballing world...

Clubs are quick to congratulate their stars but also to commiserate with those who missed out 

Sampaoli: "Mascherano has started training like a kid again. He has been in the national team since 2005 and I value him for that"

Another glance through that squad and it certainly feels like a conservative choice. Pressure will once again fall on the shoulders of Lionel Messi (who turns 31 during the tournament) to be the creative spark. Lanzini and Lo Celso have opportunities to step up and shine, while fans will be hopeful that Kun and Higuain find their shooting boots before packing their bags.

In reference to the squad's open-door training session the manager explains: "this is to bring lots of kids in with us, those who do not have the chance to see the national team."

Sampaoli still sharing his views with the press: "I'm sure  there will be surprises, as in all World Cups. Emotionally, for me, Argentina is the one [to do it]"

One player's omission may not have been the biggest shock, given the leaks, but is going to be the headline news for many 
Marcos Acuña gets some well done words from his club after his plane seat was confirmed 

"I'm sure we will find ourselves in the opening game [against Iceland] facing a team tight at the back. With Croatia it will be a very different type of game."

Sampaoli has also made it very clear that the players chosen were tactical based on what he thinks they need for this specific tournament that lies ahead.

"If we truly show how we can play, we will be a difficult opponent for anyone"

We're still waiting on some comment regarding the other strikers selected...

"Messi will be at the World Cup with no problems," Sampaoli says, "and I pray every waking second of my life that this comes true," he does NOT add.

Sampaoli: "We understand that these players have characteristics that will suit us. With some time and the desire to play, this will be further enhanced. I have a lot of hope and, every time I see them train the dream grows."

Nahuel Guzmán is another name to have missed out on selection with Franco Armani taking his place. 

The manager has stressed his confidence in his choice of goalkeepers but refuses to say who he expects to run out against Iceland, instead saying he will name him when the time is right.

Back to the words of Sampaoli: "Agüero has been training as normal since last week, he is in no discomfort. Biglia is not too much out of shape, so we will have to see how he is when he joins"

Boca Juniors waste no time in congratulating Cristian Pavón on his inclusion 

"There are young players with a lot of potential. It will be important what is passed on to them by the experienced players."

"We have to be well prepared because my idea is to have an Argentina that plays in a way that takes advantage of the characteristics of the players named."

"Meza is a multi-functional player who can help us in many areas of the midfield."

"I tried to be as fair as possible in relation to the game I want to play," says Sampaoli about his squad choice.

The rumours earlier were true. No Icardi and only two out and out strikers in the 23. "Come on Jorge, explain that!" cries a lad from Buenos Aires next to me.

On Ansaldi's inclusion: "I chose him because he can play on both sides and because Mercado is not fully fit"

Let's listen to see what the manager has to say about some of his decisions...

Confirmation of the full squad: 

Forwards: Messi, Dybala, Agüero, Higuaín. 

Midfielders: Banega, Biglia, Salvio, Pavón, Meza, Di María, Lanzini, Lo Celso.

  Defenders: Ansaldi, Rojo, Acuña, Tagliafico, Mercado, Otamendi, Mascherano, Fazio. 

Goalkeepers: Romero, Armani, Caballero

Sampaoli is in and starts with his confirmed list. First up gaolkeepers...

We've got some movement in the press room...A video is being shown of all things Argentina. Rather institutional but fills in the time

Just a couple of minutes until we expect Sampaoli to confirm his line-up. One of the big questions we're being asked is about Inter Milan striker (and rumoured Real Madrid summer target) Icardi missing out. We'll know for sure very soon...

I remember this lad, and boy he could play. Here's Argentina legend Hernan Crespo having a look around Saint Petersburg 
Russia's World Cup is certainly going to see a number of international farewells, Javier Mascherano for the Albiceleste just one of several players who will be remembered fondly by many  

Four years ago in Brazil it was this side that took to the field in the final. A Gotze goal prevented them from claiming the top prize but this year they are hoping to take a step further in what will almost certainly be the World Cup swansong for Messi. 

Last week Sampaoli's initial list of 35 players was confirmed. In a few minutes we'll see which if those stars will be having a disappointingly long summer holiday 

For more background to Argentina's team, manager, star player and how the team made it Russia, check out our World Cup preview. You'll also find links to plenty more information on other sides getting themselves in peak condition for the summer tournament.

One key player (let's not kid ourselves, THE key player) who, barring injury, will be the first name on the team sheet is Lionel Messi. The Barça ace has been rather good once again at giving opposition goalkeepers bending practice. 

As we reported early on AS English, TyC Sports claimed to have had access to the squad list ahead of time and this was leaked. You can see their version below. Whether or not this was accurate - which would result in no first-class seat on the Russia-bound plane for Mauro Icardi - we will be able to confirm very soon.

Sampaoli's side have been drawn in arguably the toughest group of the tournament alongside Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria. The opening fixture on June 21st will be up against the surprise package of Euro 2016, Iceland, who made it to the quarter-final stage. And Argentina have already been in preparation mode for a few days now in Buenos Aires. 

The Albiceleste are one of the favourites to lift the famous trophy aloft come July 15th, something they've failed to do since 1986. They have been close on a couple of occasions since then, with runners-up medals being picked up in 1990 and just four years ago at Brazil 2014. 

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of this eagerly awaited World Cup 2018 squad announcement as Jorge Sampaoli names his 23 players to represent Argentina in Fifa's showpiece event next month.