Argentina heads into this summer’s World Cup in Brazil as one of the favourites to win the tournament.
With the Argentines accustomed to the weather conditions on their home continent they have a major chance of claiming the famous trophy for the third time, after wins in 1978 and 1986.
Argentina kick-off their World Cup campaign on Sunday 15th June against Bosnia and Herzegovina. La Albiceleste are heavy favourites to top their group and progress to the knockout stages.
Argentina has some of the world’s top players in their squad. Most of their top players are currently plying their trade in Europe’s top leagues such as La Liga, Serie A and the Premier League.
Argentina has an impressive array of forwards with the likes Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi in their World Cup squad. In fact they are spoilt for choice in attack.
The Argentinian backline has been criticised by some, but the likes of Pablo Zabaleta, Ezequiel Garay and Marcos Rojo are not exactly poor players, even if question marks have been asked over youngster Rojo.
There also remain doubts about Argentine keeper Sergio Romero. The keeper spent last season on-loan in French Ligue One with Monaco and is current first choice. However, his competition Agustin Orion and Mariano Andujar are not exactly considered world-class and goalkeeper could be their weak point in Brazil.
The main man in midfield is Real Madrid’s outstanding Angel Di Maria. He has adapted well to a new central midfield position at both club and international level. At times he plays almost as an extra attacker for his country.
The former Benfica ace is allowed to go forward, as Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano and Boca Juniors star Fernando Gago are a superb shield in front of that supposedly shaky backline. Mascherano has played much of his football at club level in central defence, but should play defensive midfield role for La Albiceleste.
Gago is considered a more skilful player than Mascherano and will likely push forward more than his central midfield partner. Despite obvious talent he struggled to find his feet in European football with Real Madrid, Roma and Valencia.
Gago has found his form back home with Boca and links up well with Argentina captain Lionel Messi, whose international form has improved in the past few years.
Argentina teams in the recent past have been over-reliant on Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi and former bosses have attempted to have everything go through the former Ballon d’Or winner. However, current boss Alejandro Sabella has managed to move away from that obsession with Messi.
The likes of Aguero, Higuain, Lavezzi and Di Maria are capable of taking some of the burden off Messi. Sabella looks to have found a way of getting the best from Di Maria, Aguero and Higuain, as well as Messi, which could mean bad news for the rest of the teams in the competition.
Barcelona’s star player Lionel Messi has played at two World Cup finals tournaments and found the net just once. The 26-year-old has won everything there is to win at club level with Barcelona, but has failed to produce the same sort of form for his country.
Without Andres Iniesta and Xavi at international level he looks a shadow of himself. Messi is often mentioned in the same breath as legends such as compatriot Diego Maradona and Brazilian great Pele, who are considered by many to be the yardstick for greatness.
However, Messi’s lack of impact at a World Cup finals tournament has had his critics questioning whether he really can be compared with the greats. Both Pele and Maradona shined at World Cup finals.
In fact Maradona produced a string of superb performances in Mexico 1986 and some claim he won the trophy on his own. That is a slight exaggeration, but the diminutive forward was at the peak of his powers in Mexico and was the driving force behind La Albiceleste’s triumph.
In Italy 90’ he almost repeated the feat as Argentina were beaten in the final by Germany, but Maradona had a major influence in that tournament as well. This tournament is Messi’s chance to prove he is up there with Maradona in the list of all-time greats.
Messi’s form for Barcelona in the last few months will have been worrying for fans of the Argentinian national side. Having a niggling injury did not help his form either. Fans of Argentina will be hoping that Messi is saving his best form for the World Cup.
Messi has already outscored Maradona in fewer games for the Argentinian national side, but he has not yet made the same sort of impact on the big stage as the former Barcelona and Napoli star.
On paper Argentina are a team that will cause any team in the competition problems. Their attacking threat is enough to give any defence sleepless nights. If their top players hit top form they could be breath taking to watch in Brazil.
If their defence can remain solid, then their forward players will surely produce the goods at the other end of the field. At odds of 4/1 to claim the trophy La Albiceleste certainly cannot be written-off this summer.
Can Argentina win the World Cup this summer?