World Cup 2018 Argentina team profile: How they qualified, star man, World Cup record, fixtures
Argentina got to the World Cup by hook or by Lionel Messi, but arrive as a favourite.
- Honours: World Cup (1978 & 1986; Copa America (1921, 1925, 1929, 1937, 1941, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1955, 1959, 1991 & 1993)
- FIFA Ranking: 5
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
After the heartbreak Mario Götze extra-time winner of the final in Brazil, a seemingly super gifted Argentina team has slowly digressed. Two consecutive final losses against Chile in Copa America pushed Lionel Messi into retiring from the national team, and even though he returned for the World Cup-qualifiers only two months later, Argentina might not be among the favourites to reach the final in Moscow July 15th.
They struggled surprisingly through the qualifiers, starting out with only one win in the four first games, and they didn’t clinch qualification until the very last game, where a hat-trick by Messi secured a 3-1 win away at Ecuador and the third spot in the table. Argentina finished 13 points behind Brazil and will have to lift themselves more than one level if they are going to go anywhere this summer.
STAR MAN - Leo Messi
Leo Messi is not just the obvious superstar in an already talented team, he’s also considered one of the best, if not the best player of all time. His record for Barcelona speaks for itself. Nine Spanish league titles, four Champions League titles, five Ballons d’Or and an astonishing 675 goals for club and country at the age of 30.
Lionel Messi (Argentinien)Getty Images
But he still lacks an international trophy with Argentina; however, were he to lead Argentina to a World Cup triumph in Russia, his status as the greatest ever would be in no doubt.
NEXT BIG THING - Christian Pavon
This a veteran squad. However, if there’s a prospect that could have a breakthrough campaign in Russia, then, it’s Christian Pavon. The winger, who turns 22 halfway through the tournament, has had a great season with Boca Junior, scoring 7 goals and claiming 17 assists in 31 games.
THE COACH - Jorge Sampaoli
Sampaoli has only managed Argentina for ten games so far, and the results are varied.
Jorge Sampaoli (coach of Argentina)Getty Images
He started out by winning two friendlies that included a 1-0 victory against Brazil, and then took Argentina to the World Cup by going undefeated the last four games of the qualification. Since then Argentina has played four friendlies; one of which they lost against their group opponents Nigeria and another of which was a 6-1 crushing against Spain. Sampaoli has experimented with both system and starting eleven but tends to opt for three at the back and is known for a high risk style that end in heavy defeat, as shown against Spain.
WORLD CUP HISTORY
The two-time winners, who have qualified for every edition since 1974, were, although hugely talented, dragged to the 2014 final by Messi. However, they were beaten by a far more cohesive unit in the shape of Germany. Truth be told, Messi's excellence papered over the cracks in a top-heavy side.
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
- June 16th: Iceland
- June 21st: Croatia
- June 26th: Nigeria