The 2014 World Cup in Brazil is now just a couple of weeks away and the attention of football fans is starting to turn towards the tournament in South America. All of the qualified nations are eyeing up a successful event and one of those is certainly Argentina who have been well backed for World Cup success for some time now. They are of course packed full of attacking talent and with the World Cup being held on their own continent, you have to think that Alejandro Sabella’s side will fancy their chances of winning the tournament for the first time since the Diego Maradona inspired team of 1986…
It is fair to say that Argentina have flattered to deceive in the World Cup since that triumph 28 years ago with the past few generations falling short since despite often being well fancied. They have failed to get past the quarter-finals since losing in the 1990 final and it will be interesting to see how they shape up ahead of this tournament. The first thing to say is that Argentina did qualify with the minimum of fuss, losing just two of their 16 games and scoring an impressive 35 goals in the process.
When it comes to attacking flair, few nations have the same power as Argentina with Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain offering an embarrassment of riches when it comes to attacking options. All eyes will of course be on the great Lionel Messi who has proven himself to be one of the greatest players of all time during his club career with Barcelona over the past few years. He is the captain of Argentina and you do feel that if they are to go all the way, it is Messi who will have to star for them on the biggest stage of them all. It should however be noted that Messi has fallen slightly below his usual standards for Barca this season, while his return of 37 goals from 84 games at International level is also a tad disappointing given his ability and class.
Higuain has had a good first season in Serie A with Napoli, while Sergio Aguero has been crucial for Man City in helping them to win the Premier League title but only when he has been fit. Aguero has had a number of muscle problems this season which would be a worry but if the three of them can arrive fit and healthy, Argentina’s wait for World Cup success could be over.
On the face of it, the draw has been kind to Argentina with Messi and Co drawn in Group F along with Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria. That is about as good as it gets at a Major tournament and if they do, as expected, win their pool, they are likely to face a second round tie against either Switzerland or Ecuador who are expected to be fighting it out with France in Group E. Brazil are likely to be on the other side of the draw assuming they win their group and while every game is difficult at a World Cup, Argentina can have no complaints when it comes to their path through to the latter stages of the tournament.
Other key members of the Argentina squad during the World Cup will be Real Madrid winger Angel di Maria, Javier Mascherano of Barcelona and Pablo Zabaleta of Man City who will be crucial at right-back. The defence is a slight worry for backers of Argentina with so much attacking flair almost certain to leave them a little bit short at the back which is something they will surely be guarding against. Ezequiel Garay of Benfica could be an important player with the Portuguese side currently enjoying a great run of form sweeping all before them on a domestic and a European level. He will need to transfer that form to the International stage but there is no doubt that Garay will be high on confidence after a terrific season and is likely to be a key man for Argentina in central defence.
If Messia and Aguero arrive in Brazil fit and firing then Argentina could well be major players when it comes to lifting the trophy in July which is clearly reflected in their position towards the head of the World Cup outright market. The only criticism of Messi during his career has perhaps been his performances on the International stage but this World Cup is the perfect opportunity to do put that right. He is already a hero in Argentina but if he can lead his country to World Cup glory for the first time in almost 30 years, he might just elevate himself to an even higher level matched only by the likes of Pele and Maradona. The worry for Argentina would be their recent World Cup record with the likes of Brazil, Spain and Germany perhaps made of sterner stuff when push comes to shove but it would be no surprise to see Argentina arrive to the semi-final stage at least this summer.