Argentina World Cup 2014: Team Guide for FIFA Tournament
Many eyes will be on Argentina during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The South Americans will be one of the favourites for the title in neighbouring Brazil, and are blessed with the quality in their squad to carry through on that promise and challenge in the decisive last rounds.
But who are the Albiceleste stars of 2014? Much more than just four-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi. Find out who will be making the trip to Brazil with the nation this year, as well as a little of the side's illustrious World Cup history over the past 84 years.
Road to the Finals
Argentina's qualifying campaign was almost perfectly executed. The Albiceleste finished top of the South American competition, winning nine of the their 16 games and losing just two. The likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi, who smashed 10 goals each, helped the nation to finish as top scorers with a total of 35 strikes.
Yet it was not all as easy as it appeared towards the end. Argentina had to recover from a bruising defeat early on away to Venezuela, their first against the Vinotinto. If not for a late comeback in Barranquilla to beat Colombia, the story could have been much different for the nation.
Defenders: Lisandro Lopez (Getafe), Hugo Campagnaro (Inter Milan), Federico Fernandez (Napoli), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Ezequiel Garay (Benfica), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon), Jose Basanta (Monterrey), Nicolas Otamendi (Atletico Mineiro), Martin Demichelis (Manchester City), Gabriel Mercado (River Plate)
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Jose Sosa (Atletico Madrid), Augusto Fernandez (Celta Vigo), Ricky Alvarez (Inter Milan), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Ever Banega (Newell's Old Boys), Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors), Maxi Rodriguez (Newell's Old Boys), Enzo Perez (Benfica), Fabian Rinaudo (Catania)
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Rodrigo Palacio (Inter Milan), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris Saint-Germain), Franco Di Santo (Werder Bremen)
Via Bleacher Report
Compared to some of the previous occupants of the post, Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella cuts a low-profile figure. But his softly spoken manner and wish to stay out of the headlines should not lead anyone to underestimate one of the most astute trainers out there.
The ex-Sheffield United and Leeds midfielder cut his coaching teeth as assistant to Daniel Passarella, whom he accompanied across the world including stints at the 1998 World Cup with Argentina and across the Rio de la Plata directing Uruguay. But within four months of stepping out on his own, Pachorra was doing the lap of honour as head of Estudiantes.
The 2009 Copa Libertadores and an Apertura title the following year represented a perfect start for Sabella, and it was for that excellent spell that he received the nod when Sergio Batista was ejected from Argentina. So far he has not been afraid to make tough decisions, making Lionel Messi captain and keeping Carlos Tevez out of the international setup.
One to Watch
Who was Argentina's most successful player in the 2013/14 season? Forget Messi, Di Maria, Higuain and Aguero; one must look towards the Portuguese capital Lisbon and the Benfica defence for the answer.
Centre-back Ezequiel Garay was in imperious form throughout the campaign, as the Aguila won the Primeira Liga, Taca de Portugal and Taca da Liga to complete a fantastic domestic treble. It could have been even better, if an agonising penalty-shootout defeat at the hands of Sevilla had not deprived Garay of the Europa League.
It is easy to focus on the Albiceleste attacking talents. But the men at the back will be every bit as important should Sabella's men advance to the later stages of the World Cup, with the daunting forces of Germany, Spain, Portugal, Brazil and Co. awaiting.
Garay is Argentina's strongest central defender and, having improved immensely in the last few seasons, should have the quality to lead his side from the back in Brazil.
Argentina have talent across the pitch. However, if the team are going to break their World Cup losing streak and lift a third trophy, one man in particular is going to be crucial to their chances: Lionel Messi.
This will be the Barcelona star's third World Cup, but neither of his last two appearances found La Pulga at his mesmerising best. Messi suffered more than most due to the coaching failings of Alfio Basile, Diego Maradona and Sergio Batista in recent years, but he has managed to approach his best form since the arrival of Sabella.
The ex-Estudiantes man made him captain, and Leo responded magnificently with 10 goals during qualifying. Argentine fans will be especially pleased if he can reproduce one of his feats in 2012, a fantastic hat-trick against none other than Brazil.
World Cup Record
|World Cup Appearances||15|
|Titles||2 (1978, 1986)|
|Runners-up||2 (1930, 1990)|
|Most appearances||Diego Maradona (21)|
|Most goals||Gabriel Batistuta (10)|
|Most goals in match||Batistuta, Guillermo Stabile, Gonzalo Higuain (3)|
Group F fixtures:
Argentina vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina, June 15 (Estadio Maracana, Rio de Janeiro).
Argentina vs. Iran, June 21 (Mineirao, Belo Horizonte).
Argentina vs. Nigeria, June 25 (Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre).