Group F is in focus today, and having already looked at African giants Nigeria, we now turn to their South American group opponents Argentina.
Diego Maradona was the star when Argentina won their last World Cup 28 years ago, and their new favourite son Lionel Messi would like nothing more than to replicate his predecessor’s victory with the Albiceleste in the home of their arch-enemies, Brazil.
Qualification: W 9, D 5, L 2
Previous World Cup appearances: 15
Best World Cup finish: Winners (1978, 1986)
Current FIFA ranking: 5
Coach: Alejandro Sabella took over the reins in 2011 after Argentina’s shock quarter-final exit in the Copa America. The 59-year-old has since awoken the sleeping South American giants as they topped their qualifying group for this year’s World Cup. Blessed with a star-studded attacking line-up, Sabella’s task in Brazil will be to shore things up defensively in order to create a side that are very much title-contenders this year.
Captain and Key player: Barcelona’s Lionel Messi is a world-class player that needs very little introduction, and sometimes it’s hard to believe that he’s still only 26 years old. Constantly compared to Argentine legend Diego Maradona due to their similar style of play, the diminutive forward has near-perfect ball control and a breath-taking ability to dribble past defenders, finding the smallest pockets of space to unleash a goal-bound strike that usually finds its way into the back of the net.
At just 1.69m tall, ‘the Flea’ has a low centre of gravity, enabling him to be more agile and change direction with ease, and with his electric bursts of acceleration, Messi becomes almost unstoppable in one-on-one situations. A team player, the four-time World Player of the Year is intelligent both on and off the ball, blessed with great vision and the ability to thread through the perfect pass for team mates to score – when he’s not doing so himself.
Despite his various accolades at club level, Messi has not been as prolific for his national team. The Argentine did not score a single goal for the Albiceleste in their World Cup campaign in South Africa four years ago, yet his 10 goals in 14 qualifying games this time around is sure to keep him motivated as he aims to lead his side to World Cup glory in Brazil.
Key fixture: Argentina will look to get their campaign off to a solid start against unpredictable European outfit Bosnia-Herzegovina.
16 June, 00:00 Argentina vs Bosnia-Herzegovina
21 June, 18:00 Argentina vs Iran
25 June, 18:00 Nigeria vs Argentina
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