Argentina last won a major title 25 years ago and while the prospect of ending that drought has looked so close in recent years it now seems a distant prospect.

Argentina last picked up silverware at the 1993 Copa America, when Gabriel Batistuta and Diego Simeone were playing.

They reached the finals of the World Cup in 2014 and the Copa America in 2015 and 2016 but lost all three, the first in extra-time to Germany, the other two to Chile on penalties.

Since then they have gone backwards, with the Argentine Football Association in turmoil and three national team managers in three years unable to get the best out of unquestionably one of the world’s most star-studded squads.

After settling on Jorge Sampaoli, the Argentine coach who won the Copa America with Chile in 2015, they have yet to find their groove despite having talisman Lionel Messi to call on.

One win in four competitive games tells its own story and narrow victories over World Cup hosts Russia and Italy, who have surprisingly missed out on this year’s finals, in friendlies appear less significant than hammerings by Nigeria and Spain.

Quite how he plans to do that remains a mystery.

Sampaoli has been in charge for almost a year but he has yet to decide on his best team, or even his best squad.

Part of the problem is age.

Defenders Martin Demichelis and Pablo Zabaleta have not been replaced with players of the same quality and there are no new midfielders as influential as Javier Mascherano or the injured Fernando Gago.

Even up front, where Sampaoli has an embarrassment of riches, he has still to get it right.

Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria would find a place in any top European club side but at international level Argentina managed just 19 goals in 18 World Cup qualifiers.

What they do have, of course, is Messi, and any team with the Barcelona genius in their ranks will always be a candidate for silverware.

This could be the last World Cup for a player who is now into his 30s and who retired from international football in 2016 only to reverse his decision a few weeks later.

If Argentina’s prospects depended only on Messi, their fans could look forward to the World Cup with some confidence but Messi needs help. There is no guarantee he will get it.

Mauro Icardi, the joint top goalscorer in Italy’s Serie A this season, was left out of Argentina’s World Cup squad despite his 29 goals for Inter Milan this season.

Argentina had to cancel their final World Cup warmup match against Israel, as the political pressure grew ahead of Saturday’s (June 9) scheduled fixture in Jerusalem.

They will kick off their World Cup campaign in Russia against Iceland on June 16.

Squad:

No. Pos. Player Name

1 GK Nahuel Guzman

2 DF Gabriel Mercado

3 DF Nicolas Tagliafico

4 DF Cristian Ansaldi

5 MF Lucas Biglia

6 DF Federico Fazio

7 MF Ever Banega

8 DF Marcos Acuna

9 FW Gonzalo Higuain

10 FW Lionel Messi

11 MF Angel Di Maria

12 GK Franco Armani

13 MF Maximiliano Meza

14 DF Javier Mascherano

15 MF Manuel Lanzini

16 DF Marcos Rojo

17 DF Nicolas Otamendi

18 DF Eduardo Salvio

19 FW Sergio Aguero

20 MF Giovani Lo Celso

21 FW Paulo Dybala

22 MF Cristian Pavon

23 GK Wilfredo Caballero