Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain eyes World Cup place after squad recall
Gonzalo Higuain is aiming to convince Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli that he is worthy of a World Cup spot in friendlies coming up against Italy and Spain.
Higuain arrived in England on Sunday and joined the Albiceleste ahead of Friday's game against Italy in Manchester. Argentina then take on Spain on March 27 in Madrid.
"In these games I have to convince the coach to take me to the World Cup and I'm going to do all that I can to be there," Higuain said as reported in TYC Sport.
The Juventus forward has 69 caps for Argentina and has scored 31 goals. He played 45 minutes in Sampaoli's first match in charge against Brazil in June 2017 but was not named in any of the squads that followed until now.
"It has been long and difficult," Higuain said. "It has been many months since I was last with the squad and I'm thrilled to be back. In my mind I always had the idea that I would return. I worked in silence because my job is to play football and do the talking on the pitch. I want to enjoy it and make the most of it. I hope everything goes well."
The 30-year-old forward has had a strong season with Juventus and Sampaoli made it clear that he had been impressed by the maturity and conviction Higuain has been showing.
The Argentina international has scored 22 goals in all competitions for Juventus and netted three of the Bianconeri's four goals in his team's 4-3 aggregate victory over Tottenham in the round of 16 of the Champions League.
"To be back is so important because it means I've done things well," Higuain said. "To play for the national team is the most beautiful thing there is. It was tough to be out."
Argentina will take on Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria in Group D at the World Cup and Higuain believes the games against Italy and Spain will be good tests for his side.
Argentina struggled in qualifying and had to wait until their final qualifier on Oct. 10 to book a spot in the World Cup, courtesy of Lionel Messi's hat trick at Ecuador in a 3-1 win.
"These are two beautiful games that allow us to measure ourselves against great rivals and prepare us for what we will face in Russia," he said. "Italy is a difficult squad, they are strong defensively and if you get distracted, they will punish you.
"Spain play a different football to Italy so these are two good tests for us to improve."
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.