FIFA World Cup Prospectus: Argentina
By Tom Blanton
Football.com will countdown the remaining time leading up to the World Cup with a 32-day preview of each team that will be participating. For those of you who want to know each team inside and out, the 32-Day 2014 FIFA World Cup Prospectus is the World Cup preview.
Group E: Switzerland, France
Group F: Bosnia-Herzegovina
Group G: United States
Nickname: La Albiceleste
FIFA Ranking: 7
World Cup Appearances: 1930, 1934, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010
How Did They Qualify: Group leaders in CONMEBOL
What Group Are They In: Group F
Opponents (Match Dates): Bosnia-Herzegovina (6/15), Iran (6/21), Nigeria (6/25)
Projected Finish In Group F: First
Why They Will Finish First In Group F:
The proud and illustrious soccer nation came out of the draw with a relatively easy group. According to the FIFA Rankings, their fiercest competitor will be Bosnia-Herzegovina at 25. The two countries played each other in a friendly last November, with Argentina coming out on top with a two-goal difference. Argentina has more elite players who play in high-caliber leagues than any other country in Group F.
Keeper: Starter Sergio Romero, who plays for Monaco, has experience with four different clubs on two different continents. The 27-year-old keeper also has over 40 international caps with his home country, including all five of Argentina’s matches during the 2010 World Cup. Young and limber, the veteran will likely be a reassuring presence in front of the net.
Defense: It’s tough for Argentina’s defense to look like anything special with such world-class strikers up top. Pablo Zabaleta and Martín Demichelis, who both play for Manchester City, are the two most veteran wall-men on the back line, and will likely have an integral role in stopping the opposing attack.
Relative newcomers Marcos Rojo and Federico Fernández, who play for Sporting Lisbon and Napoli respectively, are two other defenders with international experience that will be critical when the eyes of the world turn to Brazil.
During the country’s final four World Cup qualifiers last year, Argentina’s defense allowed seven goals to be scored, which isn’t a reassuring number. Granted, Argentina qualified early, but those last matches still provided crucial experience for the players and provided insight into what to expect from the squad this summer.
Argentina’s defense is solid, but not quite solid enough to silence skeptics and eradicate fans’ worries.
Midfield: In Javier Mascherano and Ángel di María Argentines trust. The two midfielders each play for one of Spain’s two biggest clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Their experience in La Liga, and in the UEFA Champions League, has allowed them to compete against Europe’s elite. Fortunately, the two players have flourished against the difficult competition regularly faced by their respective clubs.
Maxi Rodríguez is also a viable option for the South American team. With experience on the European front during his tenure at Espanyol, Atlético Madrid and Liverpool, the attacking midfielder is a mighty resource for Argentina, should the country ever find itself in a goal-stricken pickle.
Mascherano and di María will almost certainly command the midfield as long as they’re healthy, and a team couldn’t ask for better generals.
Forwards: To those unfamiliar with Argentina’s attacking facilities, perhaps Wimbledon would be a better summer sporting event to blindly become enthusiastic about. It’s much simpler. Tune in June 23.
Legitimate soccer fans: for your safety, we ask that you please sit down before reading the following.
Lionel Messi and Sergio Agüero together in the same attack.
*To ensure long lasting jaw use, please reattach the mandible to the maxilla now*
Messi was awarded FIFA’s World Player of the Year award four consecutive times, a feat unaccomplished before the Barcelona gem became the first. Agüero was born a year after La Pulga, and shined for Atlético before transferring to Man City, where his talents were finally provided the proper outlet to spark.
Argentina will score goals. That is what the squad does best and that is the strongest aspect of the country’s game. World Cup officials might as well install homing beacons in the balls and attach the sensors at the back of the net – then we’d at least have a way to explain the striking duo’s ungodly ability to get points on the board.
Coaching: At 59, Alejandro Sabella isn’t the youngest of World Cup managers. Nevertheless, he’s a solid coach with a better grasp of the importance of comradery than the infamous Diego Maradona, manager during the country’s lackluster 2010 World Cup outing.
Though the retired midfielder mustered only eight international caps with Argentina, he boasts an impressive 433 appearances with the seven club teams he represented throughout his professional career.
He also managed his home country to the top spot of CONMEBOL’s 2014 World Cup qualification. But before he took charge of Argentina’s national team, Sabella only had two years of managerial experience on his resume.
It will be the players, and the not the coach, who will be responsible for any glory the country receives at this year’s Cup. Sabella may provide the backbone the illustrious stars need to thrive together, but that won’t be acknowledged until his mettle has been thoroughly tried and tested.
How can they win the World Cup:
Should the defense struggle, the squad will be able to rely on its offense to counter any goals scored against Sergio Romero.
Not to imply that the defense is uninspiring, but that players closest to the net have more responsibility than those furthest from it, especially in Argentina’s case. The country’s talent could almost be assessed via an inverted pyramid – the brunt of the proven talent at the top of the pitch and the players with the most to prove at the bottom.
What can go wrong:
The worst-case scenario would be the team’s defense completely collapsing in on itself. But unlike the gravitational collapse of a star, no supernova would result on the pitch.
If either Messi or Agüero were to become injured, the team has replacements in Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuaín and Paris Saint-Germain’s Ezequiel Lavezzi, who will see playing significant time regardless.
But if Sergio Romero were to become injured, his back-ups have little international experience in comparison and would likely be unstable figures in the backfield. An experienced and confident keeper lifts a little weight from defensive shoulders. The edginess and lack of self-confidence of a keeper can be contagious to defenders.
Argentina’s kit for this year’s Cup is a gorgeous mix of royal and navy blue, two colors La Albiceleste fans have seen a lot of since the turn of the century. Like delicious blueberries, Messi and co. will be bounding about the pitch confident in being able to spot their teammates’ pristine uniforms.
What's there to like about Argentina:
From the lively nightlife of Buenos Aires, the country’s capital, to the beautiful jungles of Iguazú National Park, Argentina offers an eclectic array of alluring scenery and interesting traditions.
The South American cultural hub is the largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world, and the second largest country in Latin America. Extending almost all the way down to the continent’s southern tip, the Argentine Republic boasts an assortment of climates and related activities – from jungles and waterfalls to ski resorts and everlasting glaciers.