Ranking Argentina's 10 Greatest World Cup Strikers of All Time
From the very first tournament in 1930 to the South African edition 80 years later, Argentina have been constant challengers at the World Cup. It is unsurprising really, considering the vast wealth of attacking talent that have pulled on the Albiceleste shirt and represented the nation in this festival of football.
But who are the very best attackers that have found the net in a World Cup for the South Americans?
From Guillermo Stabile in Uruguay to Gonzalo Higuain's hat-trick four years ago, the best strikers Argentina have ever produced are analysed and ranked for a position in the country's forward pantheon.
10. Jose Sanfilippo
Love him or hate him, there is no denying that San Lorenzo idol Jose Sanfilippo had as many goals as he did, and still does, contentious opinions. El Nene hit a total of 288 in his career, 21 of which came during 28 appearances for the Argentine national team.
Sanfilippo went to Argentina's disastrous 1958 World Cup in Sweden without playing a match. Three goals during qualifying for the next edition helped the Albiceleste book their ticket for Chile, and although they failed to pass the group stage the striker at least found the scoresheet against old rivals England.
9. Omar Oreste Corbatta
The Racing Club and Argentina idol Omar Oreste Corbatta has been nicknamed the "Argentine Garrincha" by football commentators. The player's story is fascinating. An alcoholic illiterate who married four times, Corbatta died penniless at 55 after spending his last years living in a tiny room in the Racing stadium.
His name may not have left Argentina like other superstars, but those around to see him play say that the rapid forward was the greatest right-winger the nation has ever produced.
Corbatta also left his mark on the World Cup. One of the few bright points of a brilliant Argentina team that fell flat in 1958, the star hit three goals in Sweden to stand out as his side's top scorer. The rest of the squad did not meet expectations, however, and the Albiceleste went home in the first round.
8. Gonzalo Higuain
The only current player present on this list, one feels that Higuain could one day be pushing for the top places in Argentina's striking hall of fame. Indeed, his experience of the World Cup so far has been extremely positive.
Just one year after debuting officially for the Seleccion, Pipita was leading the attack in Diego Maradona's 2010 squad and repaid his coach's faith with plenty of goals. Higuain hit four in that ultimately disappointing tournament, a feat managed only by Gabriel Batistuta, Mario Kempes, Stabile and Maradona himself at the competition.
A hat-trick, moreover, against South Korea also confirmed his place in history, matching the achievement of Stabile and Batigol as the third Argentine to celebrate a World Cup triple.
7. Hernan Crespo
River Plate, Parma and Lazio favourite Hernan Crespo perhaps had the misfortune, like great strike partner Gabriel Batistuta, to play in an era where nothing seemed to go right for Argentine teams. The forward enjoyed a fine record in World Cup football, but never managed to progress past the quarter-final stage.
Crespo played in a total of three World Cups for the Albiceleste, scoring four times in eight games and bridging the gap between the generation of Batistuta, Diego Simeone and Fernando Redondo with that of stars such as Javier Mascherano, Carlos Tevez and Esteban Cambiasso.
His brilliant play in the 2006 edition, where he hit three as part of an outrageously talented Argentine attack, should not be forgotten by lovers of the beautiful game.
6. Claudio Caniggia
Like all of Argentina's greatest players, Claudio "Little Bird" Caniggia was no stranger to controversy on or off the pitch. But the forward was a rare talent, equipped with the ability and commitment to make him a danger for any international defence.
A record of four goals in eight World Cup games was far superior to his overall strike-rate in Argentine colours (just 16 in 50 appearances). That quartet also includes one of the greatest goals the Albiceleste have ever scored in the tournament, as he finished a move inspired by team-mate and close friend Maradona with a delightful finish to down Brazil in 1990.
5. Jorge Valdano
Jorge Valdano's place in the list of Argentina's forward idols is often hidden by a certain misfortune on his part. The former Real Madrid star's best moments have been overshadowed in history because they happened to take place in 1986: the World Cup that belongs to Diego Armando Maradona.
Nevertheless, Valdano's work as the solitary orthodox striker in that Albiceleste team deserves credit. The Santa Fe native hit four goals in that tournament and was ever-present in coach Carlos Bilardo's line-up.
He also managed something that El Pibe de Oro could not achieve in two attempts; hitting the second against West Germany in the final to put Argentina on the path to victory.
4. Luis Artime
The 1966 Argentina World Cup team have been unfairly stigmatised over the years, more than anything by the UK press. Captain Antonio Rattin's sending-off and refusal to leave the pitch, followed by England manager Sir Alf Ramsey's "Animals" slur, have tarnished the memory of a fine team.
Rattin, a legend at Boca Juniors, should be remembered as one of the finest central midfielders of his generation. And forward Luis Artime is also deserving of a grander acclaim, after excelling in England during the competition.
The ex-River Plate, Palmeiras and Nacional star scored a fantastic 24 goals in 25 matches for his nation, a strike-rate unmatched by any other striker with a comparable quantity of strikes. Three of those came in the 1966 World Cup, where he helped Argentina negotiate a tough group composed of West Germany, Spain and Switzerland before coming unstuck in the last eight.
3. Guillermo Stabile
The name Guillermo Stabile has become shrouded in mystery and legend. But before Thomas Muller, before Ronaldo, even before Pele and Geoff Hurst, the Argentine star of the 1930 tournament has a claim on the tag of the World Cup's first-ever superstar.
Having never played a game for his nation, the then-Huracan striker entered in Argentina's second game in that inaugural World Cup, and went on to score an incredible eight goals in four games.
It was not quite enough, however, to lead the Albiceleste to glory. In the final against Uruguay, Stabile hit home to put his men 2-1 up, only to see the hosts fight back for a 4-2 victory. It would be 48 years before Argentina made their second appearance in a World Cup final.
2. Mario Kempes
Mario Kempes' overall record in World Cups has faded into insignificance compared to his heroics in one particular tournament. In three attempts at international glory with Argentina, two of those finished without a single goal to the Cordoba native's name.
But all that can be forgiven by Albiceleste fans, thanks to El Matador's sparkling contribution in 1978. After going through the first round without hitting the net, Kempes sprung into life, hitting two against Poland and another pair over Peru to send the team into the final.
There was a little more magic left in the tank of the Valencia man. The Netherlands were downed 3-1 in Buenos Aires' Estadio Monumental to win a first-ever World Cup for Argentina, helped along by another brace from their unstoppable forward.
1. Gabriel Batistuta
Such is the strength of Gabriel Batistuta's legend in Argentine colours, that the ruthless ex-Fiorentina striker's No. 9 shirt runs Diego Maradona's 10 close as the most distinctive number in the nation's football folklore. Batigol starred in a dry spell for the Albiceleste, but he was never far away from the net.
In three World Cups (1994, 1998 & 2002), the powerful forward smashed a total of 10 goals, a record unsurpassed by any Argentine player past or present. That figure includes two hat-tricks, another milestone, hit against Greece and Jamaica in successive tournaments.
Batistuta's only disappointment in a career that yielded 56 international goals was that his team-mates rarely reached the same level. The blonde bombshell never got further than the quarter-finals with the Seleccion, despite playing with footballers of the highest quality.