Icardi Finally Scored, Dybala Finally Scored And Messi Might Return In March

That’s a proper hat trick for La Albiceleste.

Tuesday night’s friendly match between Argentina and Mexico was a fittingly strange closing to a strange year for both nations: Mauro Icardi scored his first international goal at the eighth time of asking, and Paulo Dybala also opened his account in his 18th appearance. 

This was also a young Argentina squad — without the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria — coached by an interim manager while the exact same could be said of Mexico’s largely domestic-based group under the final direction of Ricardo Ferretti. 

But for Argentina, the back-to-back matches against Mexico allowed a bit of relief following last summer’s harrowing events. Of course the draw against Iceland and the Croatia hammering are now a part of the fabric of La Albiceleste, but even Icardi — so long the persona non grata of the squad — sees the light: “When I first came here it was not like this; now there is friendship and companionship.”

Dybala was simply relieved to have finally ended his drought, saying, “Hopefully this breaks my bad luck and the net opens up for me.”

Regardless, with next summer’s Copa America in Brazil looming ever larger on the horizon, there’s still one question which every player in the camp must field time after time — although the response has, so far, been equivocal.

“(Messi) is the best in the world,” said Icardi with regards to the Barcelona captain’s possible international return. “That is what every team wants, to have a player such as him. I hope that in the upcoming year he can be with us ahead of the Copa America.”

There have also been unconfirmed reports that Messi will indeed return to the national setup in March.

On the other side of things, the back-to-back defeats for El Tri only served to highlight the spectacular downfall that’s enveloped the team ever since that 2-1 win over South Korea on June 23. 

Mexico has lost seven of its last eight matches, the lone bright spot being a win over Costa Rica. Looking back over the calendar year, Mexico only managed to score 12 goals in 16 games. 

This has all been compounded by issues between the Mexican Football Federation and its players: Mexico’s players still haven’t been paid their World Cup bonuses.

“They’ve been delayed a little, but I fully believe that we will be paid,” Jesus Corona said. “They have talked with us and I’m relaxed about it. I know there have been some administrative problems, but I don’t have a problem.”

Guillermo Ochoa was a little more forthright with his statements a few days ago.

“This national team right now doesn’t have a path, a direction,” he said. “We need a coach to come in and bring stability and tranquility and prepare for the immediate future. … The Mexican national team has to open Mexico’s eyes. We aren’t like Argentina or Brazil that have enough players for three national teams. We have max 15 or 20 players (in Europe).

“Other teams like Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela have players all over the world. We can’t reach those levels. Those of us in Europe are fighting, trying to make it, sacrificing things, but they say ‘You don’t play.’ Do you prefer them to return to Mexico and play or stay and fight to represent the country well?”

Ferretti echoed Ochoa last night when discussing what he assesses as Mexico’s current weakness on the pitch.

“The problem that our players have is that we need more challenges at international level,” he said. “In all periods of the national team we always mentioned the same that we have a good group of players, but we get stuck in the same place. There are good players, but to achieve what we want, the level has to improve a lot more.”

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