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Grading Every Argentina Player at the 2014 World Cup

Daniel EdwardsFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2014

Grading Every Argentina Player at the 2014 World Cup

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    Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

    It was so near and yet so far for the Argentina national team. The squad, coached by Alejandro Sabella, spent just seven minutes behind in the entire World Cup; unfortunately, those were the final seven minutes of extra time in the final, and the Albiceleste finished 1-0 down to miss out against Germany. 

    Argentina's fifth World Cup final appearance may have ended in disappointment, but that should not take away from what was an excellent tournament from the South American team. But who really came through for their nation in Brazil, and who will look back on Brazil 2014 thinking they could have done more? 

    The 19 players who played a significant role in the Albiceleste campaign are ranked and graded according to their individual performance, led of course by the magnificent Javier Mascherano who, from the first game to the final, was a titan for his country. 

N/A: Those Who Did Not Appear

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    Michael Sohn/Associated Press

    The following members did not spend enough time on the pitch for a proper evaluation of their performance to be possible. 

    Mariano Andujar

    Agustin Orion

    Augusto Fernandez

    Ricardo Alvarez

Sergio Aguero

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    Fabrizio Bensch/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 5

    World Cup 2014 Grade: D- 

    It is unfair to place all the blame for Sergio Aguero's disastrous World Cup on the man himself. El Kun was clearly lacking fitness from the very start of the tournament, and it is as much a failing of coach Sabella who insisted on playing the Manchester City man when he was well under par. 

    Aguero's second World Cup was one to forget. It is hard to recall one telling contribution from the tricky forward, and his entry for Ezequiel Lavezzi in the final destroyed Argentina's rhythm. 

Jose Basanta

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 2

    World Cup 2014 Grade: B

    Monterrey defender Jose Basanta had a fleeting World Cup campaign. The left-back entered for Marcos Rojo towards the end of Argentina's last-16 clash against Switzerland, and a suspension for the Sporting man meant he kept his place for the subsequent fixture. 

    Basanta dealt admirably with the step up as the Albiceleste took on Belgium. Nothing got past him out wide, and he contributed to a much-improved defensive performance as the nation progressed to the semi-finals. 

Lucas Biglia

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    Francois Xavier Marit/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 7

    World Cup 2014 Grade: C- 

    Lazio's combative defensive midfielder was one of Sabella's most astute choices, as he entered for the underperforming Fernando Gago during the knockout stages to provide more bite in the middle of the pitch.

    He never ceded an inch against Germany or the Netherlands, but his lack of creativity showed in the final as Argentina struggled to move forward. 

Hugo Campagnaro

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    Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 1

    World Cup 2014 Grade: C- 

    Campagnaro was one of the victims of Alejandro Sabella's decision to use a five-man defence in Argentina's tournament opener against Bosnia and Herzegovina. A shaky performance from the whole back line led to the experiment being abandoned hastily and the Inter man did not make another appearance thereafter. 

Martin Demichelis

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    Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 3

    World Cup 2014 Grade: B+ 

    Demichelis received the nod late into the tournament when Federico Fernandez's mistakes finally caught up with him in the centre of defence. The Manchester City man was responsible for a wholesale improvement at the back alongside Ezequiel Garay, and although he lost Goetze for the decisive strike in the final, Demichelis has every reason to be proud of his contribution. 

Angel Di Maria

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    Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 5

    World Cup 2014 Grade: B 

    Real Madrid's Champions League hero had a longer season than anybody in the Argentina World Cup squad, and that fatigue perhaps filtered through at times during an uneven tournament from Di Maria. His final delivery was often erratic, but he gave the Albiceleste a pace and penetration that was sorely missing when his tournament ended against Belgium. 

    In the cruellest of ironies, the real Di Maria had just started to emerge, with an extra-time winner against Switzerland and brilliant movement against the Red Devils, when his dream was extinguished early. 

Federico Fernandez

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 4

    World Cup 2014 Grade: D

    The Napoli central defender will want to put a poor World Cup behind him. He never found his way in Brazil, looking fragile at the back and suffering far too much against the likes of Nigeria and Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

    Fernandez's tournament came to an unceremonious end when Martin Demichelis replaced him for the quarter-final, and he failed to make another appearance on the way to the final. 

Fernando Gago

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    Sergei Grits/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 6

    World Cup 2014 Grade: C- 

    Coming off an injury-plagued, disrupted season with Boca Juniors, Gago was consistent enough with the ball at feet but could not provide the defensive cover Argentina needed as part of a double pivot with Javier Mascherano. Replacing the midfielder with Biglia gave the Albiceleste more stability at the cost of Gago's exquisite distribution. 

Ezequiel Garay

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 7

    World Cup 2014 Grade: B-

    Garay entered the competition off the back of an excellent season with Benfica, and he was on balance Argentina's most consistent defender over the course of the World Cup.

    He was a dependable force at the back, but he failed to contribute much on set pieces and was bullied by some of the more physical teams on the way to the final. 

Gonzalo Higuain

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 7

    World Cup 2014 Grade: D 

    The contrast with the 2010 campaign could not have been greater. Higuain turned up to Brazil looking unfit, out of sorts and out of shape, and results on the pitch reflected that as the Napoli goal machine endured a mediocre tournament. 

    A smartly taken goal against Belgium helped Argentina to the semis, but Pipita will never forget a glaring miss that would have put the Albiceleste ahead in the World Cup final. He will bounce back, but more was needed from one of the world's premier centre-forwards. 

Ezequiel Lavezzi

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 6

    World Cup 2014 Grade: C+ 

    Injuries to Sergio Aguero meant that rapid Paris Saint-Germain forward Ezequiel Lavezzi played a rather bigger role in Argentina's World Cup campaign than he might have expected. The joker of the Albiceleste team was dangerous at times, but often lacked the finesse to finish moves in the final third. 

    Perhaps Pocho's best game of the tournament came in the first half of the final against Germany, making it even more bizarre that Sabella opted to drag him off in favour of Sergio Aguero at the break. 

Javier Mascherano

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    Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 7

    World Cup 2014 Grade: A+ 

    Lionel Messi may have been awarded the Golden Boot for the World Cup's best player, but in the Argentina set-up, nobody is under any doubt over who the real hero is. Javier Mascherano was absolutely immense throughout the tournament, putting his body on the line time and again to drive his team on. 

    The captain without an armband, Mascherano's defensive working and his flawless distribution were the basis of Argentina's march to the final, and he has assured his place in the list of his nation's World Cup heroes. 

Lionel Messi

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 7

    World Cup 2014 Grade: A- 

    Four goals, an assist and four Man of the Match awards should point to a triumphant tournament for the best player in the world. But Lionel Messi will look back on the 2014 World Cup and wonder if he could have played even better to take his team that step further. 

    The loss of Di Maria and Aguero at key points in the tournament hurt Messi, who was forced to drop further and further towards the halfway line to provide a creative spark. A failure to hit the net in the knockout stages will play on the Barcelona star's mind, but he was truly inspirational in his side's run to the final. 

Rodrigo Palacio

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 5

    World Cup 2014 Grade: C- 

    With injuries to key players such as Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria, Argentina needed the men on the bench to step up and provide in moments of need. Unfortunately for Alejandro Sabella and his charges, Rodrigo Palacio was not the man for the job. 

    The Inter striker failed to make a telling contribution during his five run-outs as a substitute. Worse, a shocking miss towards the end of the final against Germany kept the Europeans in the game. The decision to leave Carlos Tevez at home appeared more and more incorrect as the tournament wore on. 

Enzo Perez

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 3

    World Cup 2014 Grade: B 

    Enzo Perez's World Cup debut came in unfortunate circumstances, as the Benfica star entered for the injured Angel Di Maria while Argentina were leading Belgium in the World Cup quarter-final. But the ex-Estudiantes midfielder has every reason to be pleased with his campaign in Brazil. 

    Perez could not contribute the same unpredictable brilliance as Di Maria, but his passing ability and vision made him a valuable piece of the Albiceleste squad against the Netherlands and Germany. Withdrawn early twice, his absence was felt in a less precise, incisive Argentina. 

Maxi Rodriguez

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 2

    World Cup 2014 Grade: C 

    Maxi Rodriguez saw little playing time in Brazil. The Newell's forward started against Bosnia and Herzegovina but made little impact and made just one more appearance off the bench during the Argentine campaign.

    There was still time for one telling contribution, as Maxi smashed home the penalty that downed the Netherlands and sent his nation to the World Cup final. 

Marcos Rojo

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    Francois Xavier Marit/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 6

    World Cup 2014 Grade: B+ 

    A brilliant force down the left for Argentina, Rojo showed how much he has grown as a player over the last two years by emerging as a defender of international quality. He gave everything for his team and even scored against Nigeria, although there is still work to be done on his crossing and movement going forward. 

Sergio Romero

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    Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 7

    World Cup 2014 Grade: A 

    The Monaco goalkeeper was questioned heavily prior to the World Cup, but his giant figure and unorthodox style between the posts won him a lot of friends and a nomination for the Golden Glove.

    Romero went just under seven and a half hours without conceding before Mario Goetze broke Argentine hearts, and his two penalty saves against the Netherlands will be remembered for a long time. 

Pablo Zabaleta

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    Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

    World Cup 2014 Appearances: 7

    World Cup 2014 Grade: C 

    Zabaleta suffered a disappointing start to the tournament, too easily turned by rapid wingers and unable to defend the flanks with any great confidence. The Manchester City man improved steadily as the World Cup progressed, but he was at fault for the agonising final goal that consigned Argentina to runners-up. 

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