Nothing was easy for Argentina in their tortuous route to Russia 2018. Thanks to their unstoppable captain Lionel Messi, however, the 2014 finalists pulled through and will be in the running for the World Cup.
The Albiceleste went through no less than three coaches over the course of qualifying. Both Gerardo Martino and Edgardo Bauza stepped down during South America's gruelling two-year campaign, before Jorge Sampaoli eventually led them through on the very last day of the competition.
It was Messi, of course, who made the difference, and the Barcelona wizard is the emblem of an attack that oozes talent.
Without the star, however, Argentina's last friendly ended in disaster - a 6-1 thrashing to Spain that gives Sampaoli some acute selection headaches.
Who joins Leo in Russia, and how will Sampaoli build his starting line-up from the 22 players that join the captain in the squad?
Who made Argentina's World Cup squad
Having initially picked 35 players in his shortlist, Jorge Sampaoli trimmed that squad down to 23 on Monday to finalise his picks for the tournament.
Manchester pair Sergio Romero and Willy Caballero, of United and City respectively, were chosen but Romero will miss the World Cup with a knee injury. That likely leaves Cabellero as the starter with River Plate's Franco Armani as his back-up and Nahuel Guzman of Mexican side Tigres added as a third-choice custodian.
In defence, starting centre-back pairing Nicolas Otamendi and Federico Fazio are joined by United's Marcos Rojo, currently recovering from injury, while Javier Mascherano and right-back Gabriel Mercado can also cover the middle.
There are also places for Nicolas Tagliafico, Eduardo Salvio, Marcos Acuna and Cristian Ansaldi, the latter appearing apparently from nowhere to take a spot thanks to his versatility in covering both sides of defence.
The centre of midfield sees Lucas Biglia, another man returning from injury, and Ever Banega in prime position to start, while Giovani Lo Celso and Manuel Lanzini add creative options further up the field. There is also no shortage of talent out wide: Angel Di Maria, Maxi Meza, Salvio and Acuna can all cover the flanks, as can Boca youngster Cristian Pavon. That leaves just four strikers in Sampaoli's squad, Lionel Messi accompanied in Russia by Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero.
Who didn't make Argentina's squad?
Of the 35 players initially called up by Sampaoli, 12 suffered the disappointment of missing out on a final squad place. Chief among those is Mauro Icardi, whose 29 Serie A goals this season did not suffice to win him a place in Russia.
Racing Club pair Lautaro Martinez and Ricardo Centurion were also cut at the last minute, the latter reportedly taken out of consideration due to concerns over his attitude after a photo of the winger in a Buenos Aires nightclub surfaced just hours after losing a Copa Argentina match with his club. Nahuel Guzman, German Pezzella, Ramiro Funes Mori, Guido Pizarro, Enzo Perez, Diego Perotti, Leandro Paredes and Rodrigo Battaglia were the other names cut from the 35 on Monday.
Zenit players Matias Kranevitter and Emiliano Rigoni, meanwhile, were overlooked even for the shortlist, as was promising Stuttgart destroyer Santiago Ascacibar. There was also no place for veteran Boca stars Fernando Gago or Carlos Tevez, the former having recently returned from injury while the latter has shown only glimpses of his best form since returning to Argentina from China.