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Who will make Diego's cut?

Maradona's attacking multitudes

January 12, 2010

The rotation of strikers at a club has always been a problem. How do you keep them happy, while at the same time ensuring that your team performs to its full potential? A domestic squad will usually have at least four goalscorers, but when it comes to choosing your international frontline, there is a lot more to be considered.

Gonzalo Higuain
GettyImagesGonzalo Higuain is one of the best options for Maradona.

This is the conundrum facing Diego Maradona as he attempts to select a potent forward line for the Argentina side that only just made it through qualifying in CONMEBOL. The legendary No.10 used 43 different players at some stage during the qualifying campaign, but he will have to trim that number to 23 by June 10.

The list of options up front for Maradona is probably up there with the very best in world football and there are still a few places up for grabs in the squad. The coach named four of the players who will be on the plane following the vital 1-0 win against Uruguay in Montevideo back in October: Javier Mascherano, Martin Palermo, Jonas Gutierrez and, of course, Lionel Messi, but of all his decisions, who to pick alongside the World Player of the Year is his hardest.

Certainties:

Lionel Messi: The best player in the world and the attacking heartbeat of Barcelona. Messi has never shone for his country as he has done for his club, but he is a certainty to make it to South Africa. His skill, drive and flair have made him one of the world's greatest ever players and much will be expected of him over the coming months.

Martin Palermo: Perhaps an unusual choice for a certainty given that he is 36, but Palermo booked his spot in the squad by scoring in the 93rd minute to rescue Argentina's qualifying hopes in a 2-1 win against Peru. Strong, athletic and with good aerial ability, he offers something different and his physical power will provide the side with a Plan B.

The main contenders:

Carlos Tevez: Although not yet confirmed, Tevez's goalscoring form for Manchester City - where he has 12 goals in 19 so far this season - is likely to book his place, despite some questions over his temperament. His tenacity and all-round attacking desire make him an imposing customer to deal with and he has shown himself capable of playing up front in a 4-4-2 or tucked in behind a lone central striker.

Gonzalo Higuain: Another striker in the form of his life, Higuain was not part of Maradona's initial plans, but made his claim in time for the last two games of the qualifying campaign. He has scored 11 goals in his last 10 matches and has become a vital part of the Real Madrid attack with his pace, power and eye for the spectacular.

Sergio Aguero: The fact that ''Kun'' has a child with Maradona's daughter, Giannina, should count for something, but he has struggled to assert himself in the squad. A very similar player to Tevez, Aguero is a prodigiously talented individual with pace and flair to burn, but may be considered a little too similar to his team-mates to warrant a place in the final 23.

Diego Milito: A target man who has 11 goals in 17 games for his club, Inter Milan, Milito made the move from Genoa to the more high-profile San Siro this summer and has been rewarded. He has not hit the net much for his country, but is bound to be one of the most in-form players for his club in the run up to the June deadline.

Ezequiel Lavezzi: A forward who plies his trade at Maradona's old side, Napoli, the 24-year-old has not avoided controversy for his club and has made only one appearance for his country. An architect of the Creole style, Lavezzi has courted the attention of Europe's big guns, but lacks the consistency in his game to overcome his rivals. Germán Denis is another at the club to impress, but he has made little impact when given the chance to shine for Argentina.

Outside bets:

Lisandro Lopez
GettyImagesLisandro Lopez has not been given a chance to shine.

Lisandro Lopez: Able to play anywhere across the front three, Lopez offers a quality option complete with versatility. One of the best finishers in Europe, he has starred for new club Lyon this season and it is amazing he has not been given more of a chance to shine at international level.

Mauro Zarate: Brought to the world's attention after a loan spell in Birmingham, Zarate has moved on to become one of the stars of Serie A for Lazio. His work has, thus far, gone unnoticed by Maradona though as he has yet to be capped at international level. His cause may not be helped by claims he is willing to transfer allegiances to Italy.

Javier Saviola: A former wunderkind, having made his bow for the national team aged 19, Saviola's impact has waned since appearing in Germany 2006. Seven goals in 15 games for Benfica this season have seen his ambitions boosted somewhat, but many consider him too small to hold down a place in front of some of his rivals.

Last chance saloon:

Hernan Crespo: Last playing for the Argentine side in November 2007, Crespo has moved to Genoa in order to give himself the best chance of getting to South Africa. Strong, experienced and powerful, he could play the lone role well, but many feel that the 34-year-old has missed the chance to play in what is likely to be his last World Cup and even team-mate Rodrigo Palacio could be above him in the pecking order.

Julio Cruz: Another powerful frontman hoping to make his name in his twilight years, Cruz has also moved on - to Lazio - in a bid to aid his World Cup hopes. He sits quite far down the pecking order, but if Maradona needs another strong lone striker then Cruz could be in with a shout.

José Sand: A goal return of 30 in 40 starts for Lanus last season boosted his profile and he has continued his impressive form with 15 in 11 for new side Al Ain FC in Abu Dhabi. Maradona cannot fail to have had his head turned by the poaching supremo, but he may be a little too far off the radar to throw his hat into the ring.