The team: Four years ago, the Argentina circus arrived in South Africa with Diego Maradona at the helm. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t go well; they crashed out 4-0 to Germany in the quarter-finals. This year, the two-time FIFA World Cup winners look in better shape. Alejandro Sabella, who took over after the 2011 Copa America, guided Argentina to the top of the South American qualifying group during a campaign that featured a 14-match unbeaten run. And with so many world-class players at their disposal, Argentina could be on the cusp of something special.
The coach: Alejandro Sabella
Fans of English clubs Sheffield United and Leeds United may remember Alejandro Sabella’s playing days in Yorkshire during the late ’70s and early ’80s. The former midfielder is now a renowned manager in Argentina, where he won the Primera Division and Copa Libertadores with Estudiantes before becoming the national team coach.
Key player: Lionel Messi
Much has been said about Lionel Messi’s failure to impress for Argentina in major tournaments, so what better time to shine than in Brazil? As part of a more organised squad this time, he has the best chance yet of replicating his Barcelona form for Argentina.
World ranking: 7
World Cup appearances: 15
Previous best: Winners in 1978, 1986
Qualification: Group winner
Form (qualifiers): DWWWDDDWWL
Fixtures: June 16 vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina; June 21 vs. Iran; June 25 vs. Nigeria