Argentina player ratings vs Panama: Lionel Messi and Thiago Almada put on a show while providing glimpse into World Cup winners' present and future

Argentina Messi Panama 2023
An icon and a rising star stole the show on a night designed to celebrate Argentina's 2022 triumph.

Argentina's clash with Panama was not defined by anything that happened over 90 minutes on Thursday night. Even excusing the fact that this was a friendly, the match itself had little consequence.

The result was secondary. It was the celebration that mattered and what a celebration it was.

Thursday night was about reliving 2022 months after the fact. It was about feeling the emotions all over again. It was about welcoming back the heroes that brought the World Cup home to Argentina.

And welcome them they did. El Monumental was packed and "Muchachos" rang out loud. The men that conquered Qatar were back for their first match together since Lionel Messi lifted that World Cup trophy all those weeks ago after an unforgettable and unfathomable final.

On Thursday, though, it was the youngest member of the Argentina squad and the country's most famous son that emerged as heroes, with Thiago Almada scoring the first goal in the 2-0 win. Almada's finish was followed up by a goal from, who else, Messi, who curled home a marvelous free kick to mark the occasion.

On a night where they celebrated a past triumph, Argentina offered a glimpse into a bright future for the world champions.

GOAL rates Argentina's players from El Monumental...

  1. Goalkeeper & Defence
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    Goalkeeper & Defence

    Emiliano Martinez (6/10):

    Not sure he even needed to play. Wasn't needed to do much of anything, and he'll probably be fine with that!

    Nicolas Tagliafico (6/10):

    Nothing crazy in his 69 minutes on the field. Great on the ball, had little to do off it.

    Nicolas Otamendi (6/10):

    Misplaced just one of his 42 passes and was never asked to do too much defensively. A fine performance from the veteran.

    Cristian Romero (7/10):

    A few good interceptions, mostly accurate passes. Totally steady from the Tottenham man.

    Nahuel Molina (6/10):

    A bit more noticeable than Tagliafico on the other side, but a similar game. A perfectly calm performance from the penalty kick hero.

  2. Midfield


    Alexis Mac Allister(7/10):

    Helped Argentina dominate the midfield against a very overmatched Panama team.

    Enzo Fernandez (7/10):

    In his first appearance for his country since his big move,Fernandez was a perfect metronome through his 60 minutes. Set the pace, helped get the ball back, created a chance. Panama couldn't handle him.

    Rodrigo De Paul (7/10):

    An absolute monster in midfield. Was all over the place and was justifiably the last midfielder standing from the starting trio.

  3. Attack


    Angel Di Maria (7/10):

    Was active and dangerous before coming off in the second half. Not as dangerous as Messi, mind you, but who is?

    Julian Alvarez (6/10):

    Just 15 total touches during his 45 minute runout. Was unable to get a shot off in what was a quiet performance from the Manchester City man.

    Lionel Messi (9/10):

    An absolute menace. Hit the post, challenged the goalkeeper, just missed on several free kicks. Finally got his reward in the game's final moments and was surrounded by teammates in celebration. If this is the version of Messi Argentina will have in the 2026 cycle, they'll be just fine.

  4. Subs & Manager

    Subs & Manager

    Lautaro Martinez (6/10):

    Similar to Alvarez. Just never quite got going and didn't receive the ball in places to make much happen.

    Thiago Almada (8/10):

    What a run from the Atlanta United starlet, who is dominating MLS and made his presence felt with the winning goal on Thursday night. There are big things ahead for the 21-year-old midfielder.

    Lisandro Martinez (6/10):

    Much the same as Otamendi, who he replaced at halftime. Didn't misplace a pass, so that's nice!

    Leandro Paredes (7/10):

    Whiffed on a chance to score the goal only to see Almada find the back of the net. Credited with an assist, fortunately enough, but he deserves it as he was fantastic otherwise.

    Paulo Dybala (6/10):

    Never really got into the game after replacing Di Maria, who was the more effective of the two.

    Marcos Acuna (N/A):

    Came on for the final 20 minutes or so.

    Lionel Scaloni (7/10):

    Handled this as he should. Gave his players a chance to celebrate and be celebrated and, ultimately, got the result.