It's been decades since a national team has shaped up this nicely for Argentina heading into a World Cup.
Led by Lionel Messi, a player many believe to be the best in the world and one of the best of all time, Argentina boast a formidable attack with a number of elite footballers sprinkled around him. Whether it's Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain or Angel Di Maria, Messi will have plenty to work with in the attacking third.
Not to mention the advantage playing in their home continent. Argentina are locks to have the best fan representation at the World Cup short of host country Brazil.
There are question marks surrounding certain facets of the starting 11, including a midfield that could prove vulnerable against elite nations in the latter stages of the tournament. But there's experience at all levels, and the sheer offensive ability to hang goal after goal on even the most stout defenses.
Let's break down the Argentina national team outlook heading into Brazil.
|DF||Jose Maria Basanta|
|MF||Angel Di Maria|
Group F Analysis
It's awfully hard to look down the list of World Cup groups and find an upper echelon national team that received a more favorable draw than the Argentinians.
Of course, being paired up with any combination of the 32 teams in the running can give even the best of teams trouble as it's a feat in itself to make it to Brazil. But by comparison, Argentina has a stroll in the park to advance to the knockout stage.
They open up facing Bosnia and Herzegovina, who are making their World Cup debut. The Dragons dominated qualifying with 30 goals and only conceding six, but despite players such as Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic, it's hard to see the Bosnians seriously threatening Argentina in the opener.
A match with Nigeria could prove as their biggest test, and it seems as if the opposition isn't backing down, per FootballFacts101:
Nigeria head coach Stephen Keshi claims that he is not worried about the prospect of facing Argentina’s Lionel Messi in Group F at the WC.— FootballFacts101 (@FootballFact101) March 19, 2014
Argentina and Nigeria faced one another in the 2010 World Cup, and even though the Argentinians squeaked out a 1-0 victory, it was their closest match of the group stage. Like 2014, that included a weak group fit with South Korea and Greece.
This year is shaping up to be like more of the same. After Argentina face Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina, they will close out with Iran in the final group-stage match.
Sebastian Garcia of Goal.com summed up why it's important for the Argentinians not just to advance but win their group:
Winning the group is key, as it'll mean that Argentina won't face Brazil (if the hosts win their own group too) until an eventual final at the Maracana. But Albiceleste followers couldn't be any more over the moon after a fantastic and favourable draw.
Staying as far away as possible from fellow South American standouts Brazil should be a priority for Argentina. After all, it's not looking like they will be seriously tested off the bat with yet another favorable draw.
It would be nothing short of catastrophic if Argentina finish anywhere other than the top of Group F.
Will Argentina win Group F?
Head coach Alejandro Sabella has as good of a squad as his nation has boasted since Diego Maradona's 1986 World Cup-winning campaign. Even if they don't play like it through their first three matches and stumble out of the gates, they should be able to regain their footing enough to finish ahead of three inferior group-mates.
The opener against Bosnia gives Argentina a great chance to cruise to an early victory and get their feet wet heading into a battle against Nigeria. If they come out clean with six points through those two matches, Iran will be more of a leg-stretcher heading into the knockout stage than anything.
Argentina will advance to face teams that are capable of knocking them off, but those tests won't come in the group stage.