Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni say Paulo Dybala is fully fit and available for selection in Friday’s quarter-final clash against the Netherlands but has been overlooked so far for tactical reasons.
The Roma star arrived in still nursing a calf injury, having missed four weeks of action prior to the start of the tournament and featuring for just 20 minutes off the bench against Torino last month – his only appearance for club or country since the start of October.
Save for a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia in their first group match, Argentina have not felt his absence with Julian Alvarez leading the line superbly and netting twice, though Lautaro Martinez has been rather less impressive.
The Inter Milan frontman has missed a host of chances and is yet to net in 161 minutes of action, with many fans calling for Dybala to be preferred off the bench.
Dybala is one of just three outfield players yet to make an appearance for Argentina at the tournament so far and Scaloni has now confirmed that his absence is not due to any lingering fitness issues but is purely tactical.
Asked why Dybala has not played yet – and why he was even included in the squad – Scaloni responded: ‘Well he did not play because I did not see the moment to put him on the field yet.
‘He’s well, he’s fit, and he’s in a condition to be part of the starting XI.
‘But we think due to the matches that we’ve played, and how they’ve developed, we did not have the chance to field him.
‘We are happy with how he is contributing, but we have 26 players and we try to select those that we feel are best for each match and sometimes the match plays out in a different way.’
Dybala prefers to operate in the hole and takes up similar positions to Lionel Messi – who has not missed a minute of the tournament so far – with Scaloni preferring to bring on a more orthodox number nine to lead the line.
The Argentina boss seemed rather put out at his press conference on Thursday when he was asked about the fitness of Rodrigo De Paul, with the midfielder having missed a behind-closed-doors training session on Wednesday.
Asked about both De Paul and Angel Di Maria, Scaloni continued: ‘Yesterday we trained behind closed doors so I don’t now how you know that Rodrigo might have an issue.
‘If they are feeling well then we will see after today’s training if they are in the line-up [to face the Netherlands].’
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