Runners Up: 3 (1930, 1990, 2014)
Quarter Finalists: 4 (1966, 1998, 2006, 2010)
Round 2/Round of 16: 4 (1974, 1982, 1994, 2018)
Round 1/Group Stage: 4 (1934, 1958, 1962, 2002)
Current FIFA Ranking: 3
Angel di Maria
Rodrigo De Paul
Group C Schedule
Game 1 – Tuesday 22nd November 2022
Game 2 – Saturday 26th November 2022
Game 3 – Wednesday 30th November 2022
A powerhouse of international football, Argentina have won the World Cup twice (1978 on home soil and 1986). They have also won the Copa America a staggering 15 times, a joint record with Uruguay. Argentina won the 2004 and 2008 Olympics Gold Medals too. They also won the Confederations Cup in 1992, when known as the King Fahd Cup. Argentina are the current South American champions.
Argentina have a long and storied history in international football. Their first official game was played in 1902 against geographical rivals Uruguay. They won emphatically with a 6-0 scoreline. For years after that, the Argentina national team only played against South American nations for reasons such as prohibitive travel times and the outbreak of World War I. Though they hosted the first South American Championship (now known as the Copa America) in 1916, they were runners-up to Uruguay. They then went one better in 1921, winning their first continental title. It was to be the first of many.
After winning their second and third South American Championships in 1925 and 1927 respectively, Argentina headed to the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. There, they enjoyed big victories, with an 11-2 win over the USA, a 6-3 win against Belgium, and a 6-0 win versus Egypt, setting up a final against Uruguay. The teams could not be separated after extra time, but Uruguay won the rematch 2-1. A Silver Medal was disappointing but still impressive.
The First Two World Cups
After winning their fourth South American Championship in 1929, Argentina then participated in the inaugural FIFA World Cup in Uruguay. Argentina started well, attaining maximum points in their group with victories over France (1-0), Mexico (6-3), and Chile (3-1). They then decimated the USA 6-1 in the semi-final. This result set up a showdown with familiar rivals Uruguay in the final. Indeed, Uruguay and Argentina dominated early international football. However, the Argentines fell 4-2 to the hosts. They had enjoyed a great early taste of the World Cup and were represented by some talented early players, such as Luis Monti and Guillermo Stabile. Indeed, the latter finished the tournament as the top scorer, with eight goals.
Argentina returned in the World Cup’s second edition four years later in Italy, but things did not go well. Sweden eliminated them after one match in the first round (which was a round of 16). In 1938, Argentina and Uruguay were enraged that the tournament would be held in Europe for a second consecutive time. The understanding was that it would alternate between Europe and South America, so both refused to participate. They also withdrew from Brazil ’50 and Switzerland ’54, the former due to a dispute with the Brazilian Football Confederation. Despite their absence from the World Cup, Argentina did win seven further South American Championships between 1937 and 1957, with the 1957 team playing beautiful football. That side’s talented forward, Omar Sivori, is now considered one of the greatest footballers of all time (he went on to represent Italy in the 1962 World Cup).
Disappointments From 1958-1974
Argentina returned to the World Cup in Sweden in 1958 after a 24-year absence. It was, though, a humbling experience. Grouped with West Germany, Northern Ireland, and Czechoslovakia, Argentina finished bottom after heavy defeats to the West Germans and Czechs and returned home in disgrace. They did, however, win the South American Championship again the following year, but this was to be their last continental title for 32 years. The 1962 World Cup was again a painful experience on football’s grandest stage, as they were eliminated in the group stage. A 3-1 defeat by England had especially hurt.
After impressively winning the Nations’ Cup in Brazil in 1964 to celebrate the Brazilian Association’s fiftieth anniversary, Argentina made their way to England in 1966. Once there, they beat Spain 2-1, drew 0-0 with West Germany, and defeated Switzerland 2-0 in the group. These results set up a quarter-final with the hosts. England won 1-0 with a late Geoff Hurst goal after a controversial game where Argentina were accused of being too rough. Indeed, Argentine midfielder Antonio Rattin was sent off and, angry at the decision, refused to leave the field before being escorted out. The argument can be made that these events started the bad blood between England and Argentina. The Falklands War and Diego Maradona would further exacerbate this animosity.
After failing to qualify for Mexico in 1970, Argentina returned in 1974. They finished second in the initial group but then suffered a miserable time in the more challenging second group. They lost to a bright young Netherlands team led by coach Rinus Michels, a consummate tactician and a pioneer of Total Football (4-0). They then lost to Brazil (2-1) and drew 1-1 with East Germany. It had been another poor performance, and Argentina had still not yet been crowned World Champions 44 years after the World Cup’s inauguration.
First World Cup Triumph
That was, however, about to change. Things took a turn for the better when Argentina hosted the 1978 edition. It was a tournament marred by politics where the Argentinean military junta government were accused of using the competition to gain legitimacy on the world stage. However, goalkeeper Ubaldo Fillol, brilliant captain and centre-back Daniel Passarella, and scoring sensation Mario Kempes led Argentina to their first world title under the exceptional yet eccentric coach Cesar Luis Menotti. Kempes scored six goals, including two in the final against the Netherlands. As well as defeating the Dutch in the final, Argentina had been particularly impressive in finishing top of a second-round group containing Brazil, Poland, and Peru. They had won their first world title in a controversial edition of the competition.
The Maradona Era and Second World Cup Triumph
1982 was not to be a happy defence, however. With genius young playmaker Diego Maradona added to the team and Menotti still in charge, hopes were high. However, there were internal divisions. These were only exacerbated after a 1-0 loss to Belgium in their opening match. A 4-1 defeat of Hungary followed, with Maradona starring and scoring two goals. Then, a victory over El Salvador (2-0) led Argentina to the second-round group. However, once there, they lost 2-1 to eventual champions Italy and 3-1 to Brazil, eliminating them from the competition. Maradona had been kicked out of the tournament, with Italian defender Claudio Gentile in particular employing ferocious fouls. Indeed, Maradona was then sent off out of frustration against Brazil. The disappointment of the tournament led Menotti to resign, and Argentine football was wounded.
1986 was to prove much more fruitful. With Maradona now in his prime, expectations for Argentina in Mexico were sky-high. Led by coach Carlos Bilardo, Argentinean football reached its pinnacle. Maradona – considered by many of his contemporaries as the greatest player in the world and now thought of by many as the best player of all time – led Argentina to their second title. Supported by talented players such as Jose Luis Brown, Oscar Ruggeri, Jorge Burruchaga, and Jorge Valdano, he submitted a performance which is now considered the greatest by an individual player at a World Cup. There were memorable moments like the ‘Hand of God’ versus enemies England and the ‘Goal of the Century’ a few minutes later, where he dribbled past most of the team to score. Following this, there was a brilliant solo goal against Belgium and a fantastic pass for Burruchaga’s late winner in the final versus West Germany. This tournament has cemented his place in Argentine folklore and made him close to a deity in their country. He was indeed an absolute genius and proved it as Argentina emerged victorious. To crown his tournament, he scored five goals and won the Golden Ball for best player of the competition
In 1990, with Maradona declining, Argentina came close to defending their title. They played a deeply defensive and cynical brand of football which mirrored the tournament as a whole. However, this time they fell short of the West Germans in the final. They did win two consecutive Copa Americas in 1991 and 1993, the former triumph being their first in 32 years. 1994 was a difficult World Cup, too, despite the emergence of new blood such as Fernando Redondo, Diego Simeone, and Gabriel Batistuta. They exited at the round of 16 to Romania (3-2), and a faded Maradona was sent home in disgrace for failing a drugs test.
Further Disappointments: 1998-2006
Despite the tournament debut of now-legendary players such as Javier Zanetti, Roberto Ayala, and Hernan Crespo, 1998 was as disappointing as 1994, with a quarter-final exit to a genius last-minute winner from Netherlands’ Dennis Bergkamp. It had, though, included a victory on penalties over rivals England in the round of 16. 2002 was shocking. Among the tournament’s favourites, Argentina only took four points from nine and were eliminated in the group stage. The lowest ebb was a 1-0 defeat by England, where David Beckham found redemption for his red card four years earlier through the winning penalty.
In 2006 Argentina were widely considered the best team at the tournament, scoring an incredible team goal versus Serbia and Montenegro. However, coach Jose Pekerman was reluctant to use 19-year-old prodigy and heir to Maradona, Lionel Messi. His withdrawal of star playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme while leading against Germany in the quarter-final led to defeat and the team’s downfall. This competition remains a bitter pill for the Argentines, as they were possibly the best team at that tournament in Germany but contributed to their own downfall.
The Messi Era: 2006- Present
The defeat in 2006 was to be the first of three consecutive eliminations at the World Cup by Germany, as a humiliating 4-0 loss ensued in South Africa in 2010 at the quarter-final stage. Even with Messi in his prime, Argentina had no answer to the Germans. In Brazil in 2014, Argentina accrued the maximum number of points in their group, with victories over Bosnia and Herzegovina (2-1), Iran (1-0), and Nigeria (3-2). They then eliminated Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands before setting up a showpiece final in the Maracana against the Germans. There were fears amongst the locals that Argentina might win the World Cup in Brazil’s backyard. There were further compounded by Brazil’s 7-1 hammering by Germany in the semi-final. However, with the now prime Messi (considered by many as the best player ever) starring, Argentina lost the match to a Mario Gotze goal in extra time. Messi was awarded the Golden Ball and accepted it somewhat meekly.
In 2018, Argentina finished second in their group, primarily because of a 3-0 thumping by Croatia. Their ‘punishment’ for this poor performance was a round-of-16 tie against France. The French, however, won in a twisting game. Sergio Aguero had made it 4-3 with a header in the final minute of injury time to give the Argentineans a lifeline, but it was to no avail. Argentina had disappointed again during Messi’s era.
Argentina have long been blighted by internal strife and politics and had many tactical deficiencies which couldn’t get the most out of their talented players. However, this current Argentina iteration seems to have finally discovered a system which benefits their personnel and gets the best out of star player Messi. The victorious 2021 Copa America (their first continental title for 28 years) and the relative ease of qualification – as well as a not unsubstantial undefeated streak of 35 games and three years, dating back to 2019 – sees the resurgent national team travel to Qatar with huge optimism and confidence. As one of the greatest nations in football history and possessing a hugely talented squad, the Argentineans will have designs on going all the way.
Road to Qualification
Group Position: 2nd
Record: Played 17 W:11 D:6 L:0 F:27 A:8 GD:+19 Points:39
Date Qualified: 16th November 2021
Reasonably straightforward for the Argentineans, especially compared to 2018, when qualification went down to a Messi special on the last day versus Ecuador. This time, they qualified on matchday 14 of 18 with a 0-0 home draw against Brazil. They finished second in the ten-team group, scoring a good, if not overwhelming, 27 goals in 17 matches. The highlight was a 3-0 home win against bitter rivals Uruguay. The team looked defensively strong throughout their campaign, conceding only eight goals. The away match versus Brazil was suspended after five minutes due to a farcical situation. Brazilian officials entered the pitch and tried to isolate four Argentina players accused of violating COVID quarantine rules. The game was scheduled to be played at a later date but was then cancelled outright as both teams had qualified regardless. Messi (7) and Lautaro Martinez (also 7) scored 14 of La Albiceleste’s 27 goals in qualifying for Qatar.
Meet the Coach: Lionel Scaloni (age 44)
A very young and bright coach, Scaloni enjoyed a respectable playing career operating primarily as a right-back, playing most of his career in Argentina, Spain, and Italy. He also won seven caps for Argentina between 2003 and 2006, being part of the squad for the 2006 edition. As a coach, he is relatively inexperienced, being named Jorge Sampaoli’s assistant at Sevilla and then again for Argentina. Due to the disappointing performance in Russia, Sampaoli left the national team. Scaloni then shared the caretaker position with former player Pablo Aimar, but Scaloni was named Sampaoli’s outright successor in November 2018. He then led the country to third place in the 2019 Copa America in Brazil and won the 2021 edition (again in Brazil) by beating the hosts in the final in their backyard. Indeed, the aforementioned 35-game undefeated streak is hugely impressive. Scaloni, while focusing on defensive solidity, will look to be expansive in Qatar and score goals and entertain.
Possible Starting XI and Style of Play
Scaloni is likely to remain faithful to much of the personnel that has served him well throughout his tenure and won the 2021 Copa America. Argentina have finally found a reliable goalkeeper in Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez after years of inconsistent displays from Sergio Romero. Indeed, Martinez’s penalty shootout heroics are a huge reason Argentina are the current South American champions. Tottenham’s young star Cristian Romero and the wily, experienced head Nicolas Otamendi will provide the steel in defence. At the same time, Gonzalo Montiel and Nicolas Tagliafico can drive forward from fullback to support the front players. This flexibility is enabled by a three-man midfield including Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes and possibly Guido Rodriguez (as Giovani Lo Celso has been ruled out, a bitter blow). Rodriguez and Paredes are impressive central midfielders full of energy and capable of orchestrating a game, with De Paul able to join the attack. Promising youngster Enzo Fernandez may well be given a chance later in the tournament
Up front, Angel Di Maria and the mercurial Lionel Messi will play either side of Inter’s Lautaro Martinez, though Messi will be given more of a free role. He will be granted license to come deep and collect the ball, operating as a playmaker and pulling the strings to link play in his own inimitable fashion. He will also produce long diagonals for the fullbacks and through balls for Di Maria, Martinez, and a forward running De Paul. Messi will also look to provide further cutting edge by scoring goals himself.
There is an abundance of options from the bench, with the likes of Lisandro Martinez and German Pezzella able to fill in in the centre or Marcos Acuna and Nahuel Molina at fullback. The likes of Alexis Mac Allister, Joaquin Correa, Nicolas Gonzalez, and Manchester City’s exciting new young attacker Julian Alvarez are potential attacking reinforcements to freshen things up. Paulo Dybala has also been selected for the squad despite injury concerns. As stated, Argentina will have defensive prowess in mind as they know defence often wins tournaments, but they will seek to entertain too.
Goalkeepers: Emiliano Martinez, Geronimo Rulli, Franco Armani.
Defenders: Nahuel Molina, Gonzalo Montiel, Cristian Romero, German Pezzella, Nicolas Otamendi, Lisandro Martinez, Marcos Acuna, Nicolas Tagliafico, Juan Foyth.
Midfielders: Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes, Alexis Mac Allister, Guido Rodriguez, Papu Gomez, Enzo Fernandez, Exequiel Palacios.
Forwards: Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, Lautaro Martinez, Julian Alvarez, Paulo Dybala, Nicolas Gonzalez, Joaquin Correa.
Date and Place of Birth: (24.06.1987, Rosario)
Current Club: Paris Saint-Germain
Widely considered the greatest player of all time, Messi has never had a functional Argentina team set up to complement him – until now. Late in his career, at the age of 35, Messi is still shining for both his club and the national team. A difficult first season at PSG has been followed by a second season where he has 12 goals and 14 assists in 18 appearances as of writing. As one of the greatest dribblers, passers, free-kick takers, playmakers, and finishers of all time, Messi’s ability and attacking skillset are near limitless at the top level of the game. Since he has never relied much on physical attributes, he has taken on more of the creative burden for Argentina. Indeed, he plays as a link player and the man who ties the entire team together while also contributing goals himself. Certainly, his four goals and player-of-the-match performances in the two pre-tournament friendlies will see him brimming with confidence. If Messi can lead Argentina to their third World Cup trophy in what is surely his World Cup swansong, perhaps any lingering doubts that he is the greatest player in the history of the game will be extinguished. Perhaps then, he will finally reach Maradona status in an Argentinean society which has always viewed him as inferior to the late Diego.
Angel di Maria
Date and Place of Birth: (14.02.1988, Rosario)
Curreny Club: Juventus
Like Messi, Di Maria is in the twilight of his career. However, he remains as diligent, energetic, and creative a player as ever, with great shooting, passing and dribbling abilities. Di Maria has generally performed well for Argentina, supporting Messi incredibly well in the 2014 World Cup and the 2021 Copa America. Indeed, in the latter, he scored the winner in the 1-0 victory in the final. He followed that up this summer with a goal in the 3-0 defeat of Italy at Wembley in the 2022 Finalissima, the third edition of the match between the European and South American champions. He is coming into form in time for the tournament, accruing one goal and four assists in eight appearances for Juventus this season. However, he is battling a hamstring injury. If he is fit, he is the type of player who can turn it on at any given moment, and he will be looking to star in Qatar in what is surely his last World Cup.
Rodrigo De Paul
Date and Place of Birth: (24.05.1994, Sarandi)
Current Club: Atletico Madrid
A talented offensive midfielder in the prime of his career, De Paul looks to attack and get beyond the strikers to try to score goals. He is creative in that he enjoys passing the ball both long and short in an attempt to exploit gaps in the opposition lines. Indeed, 33 goals and 33 assists in 177 matches for Udinese highlights his attacking prowess. While he hasn’t been as prolific at Atletico, it can be argued by some that he is more constrained by Diego Simeone’s more cautious approach. He also has plenty of fire in his belly, never being afraid of a physical battle. However, this is a double-edged sword as he has collected 58 yellow cards and four red cards in his club career. If Argentina are to do well in Qatar, then De Paul, an important player at the peak of his powers, will be integral to their prospects.