O is for Otamendi
Argentina’s hopes of progression to the knock-out stages may look slender… but La Albiceleste pack plenty of muscle in the shape of a man they call The General.
Nicolas Otamendi has clocked up 54 appearances for his country, since earning his first call-up to the senior squad courtesy of Diego Maradona in May 2009.
This summer’s tournament in Russia marks the defender’s second World Cup tournament. His debut in the competition arrived in 2010, after he had impressed featuring alongside former Blue Martin Demichelis in the heart of defence during qualifying, and the centre-back went on to make three appearances in South Africa as Argentina reached the quarter-finals.
Following the group stage win over Greece, Maradona dubbed Otamendi ‘the best player on the pitch’, cementing his status as a rising star – his stoicity, spirit and solidity earning the plaudits – but there would be bitter disappointment for the sky blue and whites in the last eight, as Germany emerged victorious with a stunning 4-0 triumph.
Otamendi suffered another blow, as he was cut from the 2014 23-man squad (who would go on to reach the final before falling to Germany once again), but he was reinstated soon after for the 2015 Copa America tournament before joining City the same summer.
Three years on, he is a cult hero at the Club, having helped the Blues to Premier League and League Cup successes, and his consistent displays were rewarded with a place in Argentina’s final squad for the 2018 World Cup.
Needless to say, this summer’s campaign has left a lot to be desired for La Albiceleste. A 1-1 draw with Iceland and a shock 3-0 defeat to Croatia has left their chances of reaching the knock-out stages hanging by a thread.
Nigeria’s victory over Iceland on matchday two handed the South American outfit a lifeline but events are still out of their control – they must beat Nigeria and hope Croatia (who have already sealed progression) defeat Iceland. Should Argentina fail to qualify, it will be the first time they have not advanced to the knock-outs for 16 years.
Otamendi, Sergio Aguero and co. will be hoping luck is on their side, as they bid to put several years of World Cup discontent behind them…