BUENOS AIRES (AP)Argentina is taking nine defenders, seven midfielders and seven forwards to the World Cup in Qatar as coach Lionel Scaloni’s team aims to build on its Copa America success.
Scaloni announced his 26-player squad – which contains two fewer forwards than the roster for traditional rival Brazil – in a video on Friday. He is scheduled to speak about his choices on Monday.
Argentina won the Copa America in 2021, its first major trophy in 28 years. The World Cup squad has 21 players from the Copa America.
Lionel Messi’s team is unbeaten in 35 matches.
The 35-year-old Messi, who will play his fifth and likely last World Cup, is joined by other veterans including striker Angel Di Maria (34), defender Nicolas Otamendi (34) and goalkeeper Franco Armani (36).
Argentina has also rejuvenated the team since the 2018 World Cup by including forward Lautaro Martinez, and midfielder Enzo Fernandez after only a couple of games for the national team. Fernandez has quickly adapated to European soccer in his first season with Benfica.
Rodrigo de Paul, who will have the extra burden of protecting Messi, said on Instagram his dream of playing a World Cup had come true.
”I can’t describe what one feels in being able to represent his country in a World Cup,” he said. ”But I can say that we will leave our souls for every Argentinian to be proud of how we hold our flag.”
Manchester City striker Julian Alvarez was also chosen but Scaloni left out Atletico Madrid’s Angel Correa and Napoli’s Giovanni Simeone, forwards who have had a good start to the season in Europe.
Midfielder Giovani Lo Celso sustained a hamstring injury at the end of last month that ruled him out of the tournament. However, striker Paulo Dybala, who suffered a muscle injury in his left leg on Oct. 9, managed to return in time for the squad.
Argentina opens in Qatar against Saudi Arabia on Nov. 22. Mexico and Poland are also in Group C.
Goalkeepers: Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Geronimo Rulli (Villarreal), Franco Armani (River Plate)
Defenders: Nahuel Molina (Atletico Madrid), Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla), Marcos Acuna (Sevilla), Cristian Romero (Tottenham), German Pezzella (Real Betis), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United), Nicolas Tagliafico (Lyon), Juan Foyth (Villarreal)
Midfielders: Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Leandro Paredes (Juventus), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis), Papu Gomez (Sevilla), Enzo Fernandez (Benfica), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen)
Forwards: Angel Di Maria (Juventus), Lautaro Martinez, Joaquin Correa (both Inter Milan), Julian Alvarez (Manchester City), Paulo Dybala (Roma), Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain)
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports