Predicting a Route to World Cup Glory for Argentina
The Argentine national team arrive in Brazil as one of the top candidates to win the World Cup. But do the side coached by Alejandro Sabella have what it takes to get through the tournament's seven games and do the lap of honour around the famous Maracana turf?
In a hypothetical glimpse at how the Albiceleste's ideal World Cup would unravel, this writer accompanies the team on their way through Group F and the knockout stages, identifying the most likely opponent and why the South Americans are capable of glory.
A Group-Stage Whitewash
The football gods were kind to Argentina during the World Cup draw. Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina do not represent the most terrifying rivals, and they will have the daunting task of stopping the Albiceleste in their tracks in Brazil.
If the team clicks early, three wins out of three should be the expected result from Group F. Failing that, nothing less than first place will be tolerated.
Last 16 Victory over the Tricolor
If the first round does pan out according to the form book, Sabella's men should also have a fairly accessible clash in the last 16. Finishing first in their group, the Albiceleste would guarantee themselves an encounter against Group E's runner-up.
If France can take first place in that group, second would most likely be a straight fight between two direct, physical teams: Switzerland and Ecuador.
Ecuador should have the edge on the Europeans, but evidence from World Cup qualifying suggests they would fall short against the Albiceleste, having been thrashed in the home match of that competition.
Another Kind Draw in the Quarters
Having taken down the Tricolor to book their place amongst the best eight teams in the world, Argentina will be desperate to avoid Germany. The European side have been responsible for their exit in the last two tournaments—both at the quarter stage.
Luckily, it is unlikely the Germans will finish second in Group G, which would put them in the Albiceleste's portion of the draw. Portugal appear the probable candidate, and they could take on prospective Group H winners Belgium in the last 16; neither of those sides should beat Argentina at their best.
The 1st Big Test
It is in the semi-final where things start to get complicated for the team captained by Lionel Messi. Spain and Italy loom large in the bottom half of the World Cup draw, should both meet expectations and win their respective groups.
The Albiceleste have nevertheless beaten both teams in friendlies since the last World Cup, proving that the Europeans are not invincible by any means. They may have both reached the Euro 2012 final, but Argentina have an excellent chance to impose themselves and reach the decider in the Maracana.
A New Maracanazo
It is the game every Argentine and every Brazilian wants to see. The two South American giants have been mooted for the final ever since the draw was first released, and there is an excellent chance of seeing them make it.
The Selecao will come into the game as favourites on home turf, but there is a precedent for giant upsets. Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium bore witness to Uruguay's heroic 2-1 triumph in the 1950 World Cup final, destroying Brazilian hopes of a home win.
Over 90 minutes and in a one-off match, Argentina are better-placed than any team to once more upset the hosts and put their own Maracanazo in the history books.