Lionel Messi and company have a solid World Cup victory foundation thanks to Argentina's "Scaloneta"

There won't be many changes to Argentina's team, which hasn't dropped a game in more than two years, when they play Honduras and Jamaica in future friendly. Why should there be, then? Since losing to Brazil in the 2019 Copa America semifinals, Lionel Scaloni's team has gone undefeated in 33 games, won the 2021 Copa for their first senior championship since 1993, confidently qualified for the 2022 World Cup, and destroyed European champions Italy in a championship game at Wembley in June.

Any situation would be exceptional given this. But when two things are recalled, it almost goes beyond the realm of the remarkable. First off, Argentina's performance at the 2018 World Cup in Russia was a complete disaster. Second, Scaloni was a rookie coach

Argentina had already staked a lot of money on the charismatic, well-known Jorge Sampaoli. It was a catastrophe that ought to have been foreseen. Simply put, Argentina lacked the fast defenders and ball-playing keepers necessary to play the Sampaoli style. The aging team hobbled out of Russia, where they narrowly avoided being eliminated in the first round. Sampaoli was fired after receiving a sizable payout. Money was scarce, so Scaloni entered the scene. He didn't speak in a nurse's voice.

He concluded after the Russia match that "[World Cup finalists] France and Croatia snatched the ball and were in position to fire in 3 or 4 seconds." "The time has arrived to implement this in Argentina because that is how soccer is developing and that is the style of soccer I want. We'll take a more direct and vertical approach."

There was a clear issue with this strategy. Lionel Messi is not a good fit for this style of play. It had a poor beginning. The opening game of the 2019 Copa America was played by Scaloni versus Colombia. Argentina, who lost by a score of 2-0, was completely outmatched and was quickly picked off. Argentina's efforts to veer toward a more practical notion of play were on display throughout the remainder of the match. In their semifinal loss to Brazil, they performed admirably. But with Messi plus Lautaro Martinez and Sergio Aguero as the other two forwards, they were top heavy and too vulnerable to counterattacking blows.

But Messi was obviously on board. Playing for the national team looked to be the most crucial aspect of his profession for the first time in his career. To his teammates from Argentina, he had seemed like a distant character who was content in his own small world. He was more vocal and supportive now and had never been more a part of the group.Argentina also changed by the time the World Cup qualifications rolled around; they were no longer upright and direct. Leandro Paredes, Rodrigo De Paul, and Giovani Lo Celso, the midfield trio, could control the game's tempo and bring Messi into action close to the opposing goal. They were developing a possession-based team. It is the most logical plan Argentina has come up with during Messi's lengthy international career. On song, they are a joy to watch after the game has opened out, as in the second half against Italy at Wembley in June.

A major area of concern has always been the defense. It undoubtedly was in Russia four years ago, and it will undoubtedly under pressure at various points in Qatar. But since June of last year, when goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and center-back Cristian Romero joined the team, there has been a fresh confidence. The numbers are undoubtedly astounding. Only two goals have been allowed by Argentina in their previous 12 games.

If Honduras on September 23 in Miami and Jamaica four days later in New Jersey worsened those numbers, it would be somewhat unexpected. That's not really the purpose, though. These are merely practice matches to acclimate the team and make any last-minute adjustments; it will be intriguing to see, for instance, if Brighton's Alexis Mac Allister is given another chance to play in the deeper midfield position that he did in the previous match, a friendly against Estonia back in June.

However, even a shocking loss in these FIFA matches won't end the Scaloni plan and is extremely unlikely to affect Argentina's confidence as it prepares for the World Cup. Scaloni is aware that his team will have to lose some time; he uses Italy as an example, whose lengthy unbeaten streak was insufficient to advance them to Qatar. There is little question which option Scaloni would select if given the option to pick between a protracted unbeaten streak and winning the World Cup on December 18. He may be able to have both.