Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain has been dropped by Argentina for two crucial South American World Cup qualifiers. Forwards Mauro Icardi and Sergio Aguero were picked instead by coach Jorge Sampaoli on Friday. Lionel Messi and Paulo Dybala were in a squad that the Argentine Football Association said will be added to.
Sampaoli didn’t say why he dropped Higuain, but Argentine media speculated the coach wasn’t impressed by Higuain’s effort in the 1-0 win over Brazil in June in Australia. A slow-moving Higuain was replaced by Joaquin Correa in the second half.
Higuain, one of the top goalscorers in Serie A, will miss matches at Uruguay on August 31 and at home against Venezuela five days later. Argentina has four qualifiers to play, and is fifth in the standings. Only the top four qualify directly for Russia next year. The fifth-placed team in South America will play a team from Oceania for a World Cup spot.
The match against Uruguay at Estadio Centenario de Montevideo will be Sampaoli’s first in this World Cup qualifying. Since he replaced Edgardo Bauza, Argentina has won friendlies against Brazil and Singapore. Aguero and midfielder Javier Pastore are recalled, as is Inter Milan captain Icardi, who was overlooked by Bauza.
Argentina Squad: Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Nahuel Guzman (Tigres), Geronimo Rulli (Real Sociedad) Defenders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Federico Fazio (Roma), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Pareja (Sevilla) Midfielders: Ever Banega, Guido Pizarro (Sevilla), Lucas Biglia (AC Milan), Augusto Fernandez (Atletico Madrid), Leandro Paredes (Zenit St. Petersburg), Angel Di Maria, Javier Pastore (Paris Saint-Germain), Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisbon), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham), Eduardo Salvio (Benfica) Strikers: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan), Joaquin Correa (Sevilla), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City).