Foreign legion bolster Argentina’s France 2019 charge

  • Argentina set for long-awaited return to Women’s World Cup
  • Half the squad now based overseas
  • Striker Soledad Jaimes recently joined European champs Lyon

Argentina will end a 12-year drought when they open their FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ campaign on 10 June at Paris’s storied Parc des Princes.

China 2007 was a largely forgettable campaign for Argentina, who returned home after three defeats, two of them by heavy margins. Grouped alongside England, Japan and Scotland for France 2019, Las Albicelestes undeniably face a tough challenge among the world’s elite in June.

There has been incremental progress in recent years with semi-final placings at each of the past two editions of the Copa America Femenina. The biggest change, however, for Argentina since their last Women’s World Cup appearance is the quantity of squad members plying their trade in foreign leagues.

Argentina went into their 2007 campaign without a single member of the squad based abroad, and that lack of international exposure was telling. This time half of the squad are currently playing outside Argentina.

Most are based in Spain’s rapidly developing league, headlined by Estefania Banini, who spent the recent season at Levante after several years in USA’s NWSL. Banini’s long-term status as an outlier at a big-name club was perhaps recently eclipsed by Florencia Soledad “Sole” Jaimes, who was signed by Europe’s most successful club: Olympique Lyonnais.

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Jaimes has spent time in both Brazil and China, and though her signing for Lyon in January was unexpected, it is Argentina who are the beneficiaries. A powerful and skilful back-to-goal striker, Jaimes believes she will benefit among the heady company of OL’s all-star roster.

“It is the highest level I have played at, not only for the teams, but for the individual players,” Jaimes told FIFA.com. “It is certainly one of the best leagues in the world.

“At first it took some adapting, in terms of the technical level and also the physical aspect, but I soon settled. I’m adapting to life in France, and it is a good thing to have this experience ahead of having the World Cup here.”

Dependable fullback Agustina Barroso was at the forefront of Argentina’s foreign legion. There were just three players domiciled outside Argentina’s borders when she made the move to Brazil aged just 22 in 2016. There followed a stint in England, and most recently Barroso linked with Madrid CFF.

“My game has improved a lot after going overseas,” Barroso told FIFA.com. “There was a huge change for me going to Brazil, and then also England and Spain was a huge step up. I wanted to grow as a footballer and as a person, and challenge myself by playing in a different country.”

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The decade-plus absence from the world stage has been a long one for one of the globe’s proudest football nations. And Argentina’s players are aware of the gilt-edged opportunity they have to grow women’s football at home.

“Qualification was very important and very much needed for the national team, especially as it has been so long since our last appearance,” said Jaimes. “It is a moment to take advantage of this situation and try and advance the game through this.

“As a footballer one always dreams to play at a World Cup. This is the moment to make women’s football grow.

“I love wearing the Argentina national team shirt and wear it with responsibility. There is no pressure, but there is responsibility.”

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