FIFA World Cup

Why Argentina Will Win the 2014 World Cup

Argentina's Angel di Maria celebrates after scoring his side's only and winning goal in extra time during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Argentina and Switzerland at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. Argentina defeated Switzerland 1-0 to move on to the quarterfinals. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press
Sam PilgerFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2014

For all the surprises and drama of the opening stages, this World Cup still has an air of inevitably about how it will all end.

Argentina will gatecrash their neighbour’s party in the World Cup final at the Maracana next Sunday before fleeing back across the border with the trophy.

This has always been the greatest fear of an expectant Brazilian nation, and the most cherished wish of Argentina.

So far nothing at this tournament has dissuaded me that this will happen.

The Brazilians have been nervous and fragile; squeezing past Croatia, failing to score against Mexico and only getting beyond Chile after a penalty shootout.

Meanwhile Argentina have strode through the World Cup, winning all four of their games with something clearly still in reserve.

Argentina are growing, slowly getting better, ready to peak.

We have certainly not seen the best of them yet, but they have developed a knack for winning, and when they do finally gel will be unstoppable. 

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 01: Granit Xhaka of Switzerland challenges Lionel Messi of Argentina during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Argentina and Switzerland at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 1, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

The final is also likely to act as Lionel Messi’s coronation as the world’s best player of this, and arguably any generation. 

The stage is now clear for Argentina’s No. 10.

His Portuguese rival Cristiano Ronaldo was always going to be hampered by his colleagues and has now returned home.

While Ronaldo huffed and puffed his way through the group stages, looking unfit and uninterested, Messi has conducted a master class in how to win games.

He scored a decisive second goal against Bosnia-Herzegovina, a late brilliant winner against Iran, contributed another two goals in the 3-2 win over Nigeria and then the vital run and assist for Angel Di Maria’s late winner against Switzerland on Monday.

Messi is just getting started, and he knows this is his moment to enshrine himself as the greatest ever. It will be fun to watch.

But there is life beyond Messi and Argentina are not simply a one-man team.

Swarming around Messi are players of the calibre of Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Ezequiel Lavezzi.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

When Aguero was unfit to face Switzerland he was replaced by Paris Saint-Germain’s Lavezzi, who probably improved the side.

In this Argentinian squad, such is their strength in depth, an injury isn’t seen as a crisis but rather an opportunity for another world-class talent to show what they can do.

After the win over Switzerland, as reported in The Guardian, Messi said he and his team-mates had “suffered and suffered” and in the dying minutes you could see the substituted Lavezzi consumed with nerves rocking back and forth on the bench.

There will be more nervous moments over the next 11 days, but Argentina have the more attractive side of the draw with Belgium in the quarter-finals at the weekend, and should they win that, probably the Netherlands in the semi-finals.

Argentina should overcome those hurdles to face Brazil in the final and plunge the host nation in to a prolonged period of national mourning by lifting the World Cup.

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