Argentina - World Cup 2014 Team Profile
Nick Spiller reports
Road to Brazil
Although they got off to a shaky start in South America's CONMEBAL World Cup qualification group, losing to Venezuela in their second game and drawing with Bolivia at home, Argentina pulled it together and went on to win the group, made up of all the continent's teams. However, with Brazil qualifying automatically as the 2014 World Cup hosts, Argentina were spared a more difficult task in qualifying.
Nevertheless, against their local rivals Argentina put on several great displays and even earned big wins over fellow South American World Cup representatives Ecuador, Uruguay, and Chile, cementing their dominance in the region. Overall it was a very comfortable road to the World Cup for a team hoping to win it all.
Argentina Kit 1
Argentina Kit 2
Argentina v Bosnia - Herzegovina 15 June; Rio de Janeiro
Argentina v Iran 21 June; Belo Horizonte
Argentina v Nigeria 25 June; Porto Alegre
With the world's best player Lionel Messi in their squad, Argentina have every hope of winning this World Cup, though everyone understands how important a full team of support is to winning this trophy, especially after watching Spain in 2010.
Fortunately, the current Argentina squad has talented players all over he field, meaning this could be their best opportunity to earn a World Cup in years, especially as Group F should ensure safe passage against the likes of Iran, Nigeria and Bosnia.
Up top they have several world-class forwards in addition to Messi, including Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Throughout the rest of the squad, experienced veterans like Maxi Rodriguez, Angel di Maria, Pablo Zabaleta, and Javier Mascherano make for a very powerful and deep team.
Despite all their success in the 80s with Diego Maradona, the Argentineans have been a pretty average World Cup team in recent years. Since 1990, the team has not progressed beyond the quarterfinals, and has often fallen at the hands of other major contenders at the later stages of the tournament. Nevertheless, they have an exceptionally good roster and a proximity close to home which makes them genuine contenders to win the World Cup.
Key player: Lionel Messi
On the cusp of 27 years old, Messi has reached his prime years as a soccer player. However, despite all his accolades and incredible skill, the play maker is coming off of a pretty poor season by his fabulous standards. While his 41 goals in 46 matches are still superb, when you compare that to his mark of 73 goals in 60 matches two seasons ago, there is definite worry over whether the player has already peaked. He has also dealt with injuries this season while his club Barcelona as a whole had a down year.But this season is past now and Messi is entering the tournament in good health. He is one of the few players in Brazil capable of taking over the tournament and inspiring a Maradona-like run to the trophy. Because of their shared nationality, many don't consider Messi to be in Maradona's league because he has yet to win the World Cup. This tournament could be the best chance of Messi's career to do just that and become a legend.
One to watch: Sergio Aguero
The striker is one of the best in the world and is a hero for Manchester City, where his famous last-minute goal won the English Premier League in 2012. He plays with power and endless energy and is coming off of a 28 goal outing this past year.
Like most Argentineans on the team, we are still awaiting him to burst onto the international scene, but with a strong tournament he could become a household name. With a pure and natural instinct for goal scoring, Aguero is certainly a player to see, especially with the great support he'll receive from Messi.
Coach: Alejandro Sabella
While he was never a superstar as a player, Sabella did have a decent career for several clubs in Argentina, including River Plate. At the high point of his career, he would play midfield for English clubs Sheffield United and Leeds United, and also made 8 appearances for the national team, including playing in the 1983 Copa America.
As a coach, Sabella worked as an assistant around various clubs before securing the head role at Estudiantes de La Plata. In 2009 he won the Copa Libertadores, the most prestigious club competition for South America. He left the club several years later and then joined the national team, where the early results have been great. This will be Sabella's first major international tournament with Argentina.
Sabella utilizes a 4-3-3 system against lesser opponents but opts for a 5-3-2 when playing against the better teams for more defensive stability. Finding the balance will be tough for Argentina because while their offensive prowess can be spectacular, their defenders and deep-lying midfielders will be questionable.
1934, 1958, 1962, 2002 First Round; 1974, 1982, 1994 Second Round; 1966, 1998, 2006, 2010 Quarterfinals; 1930, 1990 Second Place; 1978, 1986 Champions.
2014 World Cup Squad
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Monaco), Mariano Andujar (Catania), Agustin Orion (Boca Juniors)
Defenders: Martin Demichelis (Manchester City), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Federico Fernandez (Napoli), Ezequiel Garay (Benfica), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon), Jose Basanta (Monterrey), Hugo Campagnaro (Inter Milan)
Midfielders: Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Maxi Rodriguez (Newell's Old Boys), Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors), Augusto Fernandez (Celta Vigo), Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan), Enzo Perez (Benfica)
Strikers: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris Saint-Germain), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Rodrigo Palacio (Inter Milan)