It’s been 28 long years since Argentina last hoisted the World Cup, and the chance of winning it in the backyard of their eternal rivals would make the accomplishment virtually euphoric. “The dream is to win the title in Brazil – it’s what all Argentines want, what we want and what our families want. But we know it is not easy,” said Angel Di Maria. Point taken. The path towards la Albiceleste winning their third World Cup won’t be easy, but this current crop of players has the potential of being the next long-awaited golden generation. Time will tell if they are capable of seizing the moment.
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Sampdoria), Mariano Andujar (Catania), Agustin Orion (Boca Juniors)
Defenders: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Federico Fernandez (Napoli), Ezequiel Garay (Benfica), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon), Hugo Campagnaro (Inter Milan), Martin Demichelis (Manchester City), Jose Basanta (Monterrey)
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan), Augusto Fernandez (Celta Vigo), Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Maxi Rodriguez (Newell’s Old Boys), Enzo Perez (Benfica)
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Rodrigo Palacio (Inter Milan), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris St Germain)
Heading into his third-year in charge of the national team, Alejandro Sabella previously managed River Plate and Estudiantes (2009 Copa Libertadores champions) in his native Argentina. He amassed over 100 appearances with both clubs during his playing days, which also included a three-year stint in England with Sheffield United and Leeds United.
4-3-3 (GK) Romero – (D) Zabaleta, Fernandez, Garay, Rojo – (M) Gago, Mascherano, Di Maria – (F) Messi, Higuain, Aguero
Group F schedule
June 15: vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina in Rio
June 21: vs. Iran in Belo Horizonte
June 25: vs. Nigeria in Porto Alegre
How they qualified
Rather routinely and without much drama. Don’t let the final standings fool you, as Argentina topped the table by the thinnest of margins—two points clear of runners-up Colombia, and four points ahead of third place Chile. Despite a shaky start that saw them defeated in Venezuela and held to a draw by bottom-feeder Bolivia on home soil, the end result was never really in question. La Albiceleste won six of their next seven matches, and remained undefeated (13 games) until their last meaningless fixture—a 3-2 loss to Uruguay in Montevideo.
Nothing quite compares to the intimidating and threatening force of forwards Argentina is taking to Brazil. The list of attributes is endless and almost goes unrivalled, it’s practically unfair. They can break opponents down from every possible angle. The fab-four (Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi) provide a versatile attacking threat of options for Sabella to choose from—speed, creativity, distribution and natural scoring touch.
Historically, the defensive zone has been a position of strength for Argentina—Javier Zanetti, Roberto Ayala, Juan Pablo Sorin—but a developmental shift within the last decade has left a former positive severely depleted. Depth is lacking, the quality of the current generation is incomparable to the world-class talent and pedigree of past.
Players to watch
The usual suspects—’Team Strengths’ section— are obviously going to garner plenty of attention, and deservedly so. For all his talents, Angel Di Maria more often than not receives very little attention due to the grad stature of his higher ranking Albiceleste teammates. As for Lionel Messi, what can be said about one of the greatest players of his era?
Can the 28-year trophy drought end in Brazil? Every four years, Argentina is always one of the favourites. The motivation of winning the World Cup on the ground of their continental rivals might be the extra little push that could turn the dream into a reality. This very well could be the year for La Albiceleste.
Prospects in Brazil
It should be pretty straightforward for Argentina, with the Group F opener against Bosnia and Herzegovina their biggest test—no disrespect towards Iran and Nigeria. The second round opens up potential fixtures with one of Switzerland, France, Ecuador or Honduras—a Swiss meeting is the likeliest scenario, followed by a potential quarterfinal showdown with Germany or Portugal. No one said it was going to be easy.
World Cup history
In three of the last four tournaments Argentina have exited at the quarterfinal stage—2010 and 2006 to Germany and by the Netherlands in 1998. The desire for revenge and finally getting one over the Germans is a distinct possibility. La Albiceleste lost the 1930 final to host Uruguay, hoisted the trophy in ’78 on home soil and repeated the feat at Mexico ’86, before losing to West Germany at the final of Italia ’90.
• 1938 to 1954—Did not enter
• 1958—First round
• 1962—First round
• 1970—Did not qualify
• 1974—Second round
• 1994—Second round
• 2002—First round
• 2006— Quarterfinals
• 2010— Quarterfinals
Algeria || Argentina || Australia || Belgium || Bosnia and Herzegovina || Brazil || Cameroon || Chile || Colombia || Costa Rica || Croatia || Ecuador || England || France || Germany || Ghana || Greece || Holland || Honduras || Iran || Italy || Ivory Coast || Japan || Mexico || Nigeria || Portugal || Russia || South Korea || Spain || Switzerland || Uruguay || United States