Two times champions Argentina will be participating in their 15th World Cup when they take to the field in South Africa. The Albiceleste have only once failed to qualify and in addition to winning the tournament in 1978 and 1986 have three quarter-final appearances and one runners-up finish to their name.

Argentina made hard work of qualifying, only securing their place in the final round of games with a tightly-contested 1-0 win away to Uruguay. Their reward is to line up alongside Nigeria, South Korea and Greece in Group B.

The Coach

Diego Maradona (ARG)
49 years old

As a player, Maradona is often credited with single handily winning Argentina the World Cup in 1986, but his legacy could be in jeopardy if the national team fail to impress in South Africa.

A series of bizarre decisions saw him team clumsily stumble towards the finish line in qualification and he is acutely aware that a large section of the national press has already written off their chances this summer. However, the anger brought about by a desire to prove people wrong is what drove Maradona to such success as a player and he will be hoping to use this local pessimism to create a siege mentality within his squad.

“I remember in 86, when we left no one was expecting anything of us and then we came back with the trophy,” he recalled recently.

Players to watch

Javier Mascherano
25 years old
Defensive Midfielder
Liverpool (ENG)

One of Maradona’s first decisions upon being named Argentina coach was to install Mascherano as his captain, despite the player’s initial misgivings. Patchy performances in qualifying seemed to indicate that the Liverpool midfielder might have been correct to question his coach’s judgement, but he has a vital role to play as the ball-winner in central midfield and it is crucial to Argentina’s hopes that he returns to form for the tournament itself.



Juan Sebastian Veron
35 years old
Estudiantes (ARG)

With the absence of a playmaker higher up the field, Veron will be tasked with providing the inspiration from deep, using his experience and excellent range of passing to open up the pitch for his team-mates. His advancing years are beginning to catch up with him physically, but his mind is as sharp as ever and he has a central role to play if Argentina are to be successful this summer.

Lionel Messi
22 years old
Barcelona (SPA)

Near universally hailed as the best player in the world, Messi’s one clear fault is that he has struggled to reproduce his sparkling Barcelona form with the Albiceleste, something that he will look to put right in South Africa. Argentina’s likely defensive bias is the polar opposite of Barcelona’s possession orientated attacking game, making it hard for Messi to have the same impact as at club level, but if he wants his team to go far this summer getting the best out of Messi should be top of Maradona’s priorities.

Angel Di Maria
22 years old
Benfica (POR)

With so much attention likely to be focused on Messi on the opposite flank, Argentina may look to take advantage of the additional space on the left with quick switches of the play to Di Maria, in good form after an excellent season helping Benfica to the Portuguese title. A direct, pacey winger with a good eye for goal, Di Maria could be one of the surprise packages this summer.

The view from Argentina

The manner of Argentina’s qualification had dampened expectations for the tournament itself, but the well organised manner of the Albiceleste’s 1-0 friendly win over Germany earlier this year has given rise to renewed optimism. The press and general populous alike realise that this Argentina is hardly a vintage one, but with the right conditions a run to the semi-finals would be seen as a realistic target.


Argentina are one of those three or four teams behind Spain and Brazil in the pecking order that have a chance of winning the tournament if things go their way. They should qualify atop their group and are unlikely to face their first real challenge until the quarter-final stage. Argentina have a good chance of reaching the semi-finals, but anything beyond that will be dependent on Maradona getting the best out of Messi, something he has thus far singly failed to do.

Did you know?

Argentina won the last World Cup held in the winter of the host nation when they won the 1978 competition on home soil.

Group games

12/06/10: Argentina  1 – 0  Nigeria    –  Ellis Park, Johannesburg
17/06/10: Argentina  4 – 1  South Korea    –  Soccer City, Johannesburg
22/06/10: Argentina  2 – 0  Greece    –  Polokwane