DOHA, Qatar. When it comes to conquering people, it doesn’t take long for Lisandro Martinez. After Manchester United started their season with back-to-back defeats to Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford, there was some debate about whether he was tall enough at 5ft 9in to be a Premier League centre-back. Nevertheless, by the end of August, he was named United’s Player of the Month.
Then, arriving in Qatar with an Argentine team considered one of the favorites to win the World Cup, Martinez stayed on the bench ahead of their first game against Saudi Arabia. After a shocking 2-1 loss, he was selected to start Game 2 against Mexico and after an impressive performance in a 2-0 win that breathed new life into their campaign, he should retain his place in the group final decider. against Poland on Wednesday.
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Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni, once a West Ham United player, has developed a reputation for being loyal to a trusted group of players, so much so that his team has been nicknamed “Stairs“in his honor.
Revered at home for ending a 28-year major league drought by winning the America’s Cup in 2021, Scaloni’s decisions are rarely questioned, but Martinez’s form at Old Trafford has sparked some calls for his inclusion against Saudi Arabia. by Tottenham. Hotspur’s Christian Romero or former Manchester City centre-back Nicolas Otamendi. The Argentine fans were happy to accept Scaloni’s offer to start with Romero and Otamendi, but now that Martinez is in the game – he replaced Romero in the 59th minute, just six minutes after Saudi Arabia scored their second goal – there is no doubt that that he should stay. there.
He was responsible for one of Argentina’s iconic moments in Qatar when he punched Mexican striker Hirving Lozano in the face and then left as if nothing had happened. Argentine fans love that kind of commitment almost as much as Lionel Messi’s goal.
Scaloni reacted to the loss to Saudi Arabia by abandoning his usual plan and making five substitutions against Mexico, but Argentine fans want to see another one when the XI is announced to play Poland, featuring Benfica midfielder Enzo Fernandez.
The arrival of the 21-year-old from the bench in the 57th minute against Mexico was the catalyst for Argentina to take control of an uneven game. He first participated in a move that saw Messi score a goal and then stumbled into the net himself with a shot into the top corner that put their victory beyond doubt. If there are changes in the match against Poland, it is expected that they will affect Fernandez, and not the replacement of Martinez with Romero, who played poorly against Saudi Arabia and is struggling to get rid of a muscle injury.
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Scaloni’s success with the Argentina national team is largely due to his ability to maintain a team spirit that was lacking in other tournaments, and he was eager to pass Martinez his first international call in 2019, not only because of his character, but also because of something else. . At United, Martinez is seen as as important off the pitch as he is on it.
Manchester United manager Eric Ten Hag wanted the left centre-back to give his defense more balance over the summer, but Martinez also played a key role in cleaning up the dressing room. Sources told Sportzshala that he makes it a point to dine with various groups of friends at United to prevent clashes, and he will look for players who make a mistake or those who don’t play to make sure they don’t leave themselves.
Martinez is also credited with developing Alejandro Garnacho this season after taking the teenager under his wing. He has been referred to as Garnacho’s “big brother” in the locker room and helped the forward turn more professional after he ran into disciplinary issues during the pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia for missing team meetings.
Sources told Sportzshala that Martinez is the kind of player everyone wants to have on their team for low-squad games at the end of practice, and subsequently goes berserk if he doesn’t win. When he is challenged, the other players yell “butcher” in response – a reference to the nickname he got at Ajax – and often laugh at how he managed to create the image of a tough man despite being extremely polite and protected from football.
“He brings the South American spirit,” Ten Hag said after the €57.37m signing of Martinez was confirmed in July. “It’s aggressiveness, but also control.”
He’s already become a cult hero at Old Trafford, and ferocious tackles are greeted with chants of “Argentina, Argentina.” After he was substituted at half-time during United’s 4-0 defeat at Brentford in August – a game that prompted former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher to say he was “convinced” Martinez could not play as a central defender in the Premier League — The 24-year-old has played a central role in a resurgence under Ten Hag. And since he showed up in Qatar, Argentina has gone from a humiliating early elimination to regaining their status as true World Cup contenders.
Leading up to the tournament – Messi’s last – there was a feeling that Argentina would win it because of their iconic No. 10, not because of him. If that happens and Messi walks away with the trophy in hand, he will have to thank the likes of Martinez.