Lionel Messi spearheads Argentina's 23-man 2018 World Cup squad as Mauro Icardi misses out

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Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi has been left out of Argentina‘s 23-man World Cup squad.

The 25-year-old netted 29 goals in Serie A this season, topping the scoring charts alongside Lazio forward Ciro Immobile, as Inter qualified for the Champions League.

But with boss Jorge Sampaoli having Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero in his strike department, there is no room for Icardi.

Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori, who like Icardi was named in Sampaoli’s initial 35-man group, also missed out.

The travelling party included six players plying their trade in the Premier League – goalkeeper Sergio Romero and defender Marcos Rojo from Manchester United, Chelsea stopper Willy Caballero, Manchester City duo Nicolas Otamendi and Aguero plus West Ham playmaker Manuel Lanzini.

Jorge Sampaoli

Sampaoli said on Argentina’s official Twitter: “I tried to be as fair as possible. We came to these names after a lot of analysis in each position.

“If we are encouraged to play, we will be a complex rival for anyone.”

Argentina kick off their World Cup campaign against Iceland on June 16 before further Group D games with Croatia and Nigeria.

Argentina World Cup squad

Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Franco Armani (River Plate), Willy Caballero (Chelsea), Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla), Federico Fazio (Roma), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Cristian Ansaldi (Inter Milan), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Javier Mascherano (Hebei China Fortune), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica), Lucas Biglia (AC Milan), Angel Di Maria (Paris St Germain), Gio Lo Celso (Paris St Germain), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham), Maxi Meza (Independiente), Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisbon), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus), Cristian Pavon (Boca Juniors), Paulo Dybala (Juventus).

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Watch: Relive Gazza's tears at World Cup 1990 as England star announces himself on global stage

Copa90 21/05/2018
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The World Cup. Every four years there’s a chance for the biggest names to shine on the biggest stage of all, to cement their place in history once and for all and to secure the kind of legacy the rest of us can only dream about. But football has a funny way of surprising us, not going to plan and showcasing the full range of human emotion; and that’s exactly what happened with Paul Gascoigne at Italia ’90.

Aged 23 and with the world at his feet, Gazza put in a string of virtuoso performances as a part of one of England’s greatest ever teams alongside Gary Lineker, David Platt, John Barnes and many more. Sir Bobby Robson’s Three Lions safely navigated their way through Group F after a stuttering 1-1 against Ireland in their first game was followed up by a vastly improved performance in a goalless draw with Holland and a 1-0 win over Egypt.

His joyful, fearless and carefree approach to the game won the hearts and minds of those back at home and abroad as the belief that England could win their first World Cup on foreign soil grew. But during a Second Round clash with Belgium, Gascoigne picked up a yellow card before flighting in a superb ball for Platt’s iconic volleyed winner, meaning he was just another booking away from a suspension.

Victory against a talented Cameroonian side in the quarter-finals set up a semi-final clash with West Germany in Turin, a night that would go on to define Gazza forever. A massively deflected free kick looked to be knocking England out until Lineker levelled with an 80th minute equaliser. Eight minutes into extra-time, disaster struck for Gascoigne as he lunged in Thomas Bertholt and picked up a yellow card that ensured his World Cup would end that night.

The instantly iconic tears flowed and despite Gazza’s best efforts, it would also be the end of the road for his country as West Germany progressed on penalties. But a nation had fallen in love with the archetypal English talisman and embodiment of glorious failure, tropes that still dominate the national psyche to this day.

Italia ’90 might have ended in heartbreak on the pitch but against the backdrop of toxic media coverage and the violence and tragedy that pervaded the game at home, England had fallen back in love with its national sport.

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World Cup 2018: Roberto Martinez puts out Radja Nainggolan's fire as Belgium go a different way

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Not World Cup-bound: Radja Nainggolan.

He only turned 30 earlier this month and is still highly regarded as one of the game’s most dynamic midfield forces but Belgium will have to do without Radja Nainggolan’s explosiveness at the World Cup.

The decision to exclude the Roma star from the 28-man squad list sparked some incendiary responses. Former Belgian international Philippe Albert didn’t pull any punches.

“We must be the only country in the world to be making the trip without one of the best players in the world. This is not the way to become world champions,” he said.

Despite the slightly harsh delivery, Albert certainly has a point. Nainggolan has been sensational for Roma again this season and was voted their best player. The all-action midfielder marries the defensive and offensive aspects of the game with complete authority.

According to Squawka, he has created more chances (196) and won more tackles (214) than any other Roma player in Serie A and the Champions League over the last three seasons.

Nainggolan reacted to the disappointing news of his omission by dropping a bomb of his own. The Belgian wasted no time announcing his international retirement after 30 appearances for his country.

He does have to shoulder some of the blame though given that he hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory with his reputation off the pitch. Nainggolan was caught smoking and drinking on camera earlier this year.

There is also the fact that Martinez’s tactics for Belgium do not accommodate the lively midfielder’s specific style of play.

“I have put in place a specific system that works. I can’t use Radja in a secondary role.”

Playing a 3-4-2-1 system, Axel Witsel is chosen to partner Kevin De Bruyne in midfield while Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens support Romelu Lukaku up front. Martinez is clearly prioritising composure in the middle and thus condemning a fiery international career to a tepid end.

BELGIUM 28-MAN SQUAD:

Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels, Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet, Matz Sels;

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Laurent Ciman, Leander Dendoncker, Christian Kabasele, Vincent Kompany, Jordan Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen;

Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco, Nacer Chadli, Kevin De Bruyne, Mousa Dembele, Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj, Thomas Meunier, Youri Tielemans, Axel Witsel;

Forwards: Michy Batshuayi, Christian Benteke, Eden Hazard, Thorgan Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens.

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