World Cup 2014

World Cup 2014: Argentina national soccer team guide

ARGENTNA’S TRIP NORTH TO BRAZIL

A proverbial favorite seemingly at every World Cup, Argentina boast enough quality from front to back to pull off the big Brazilian nightmare that would be winning the World Cup next summer. Talent has not always matched expectations, however, as the Albiceleste have disappointingly and surprisingly failed to advance past the quarterfinals since 1990.

WORLD CUP PROSPECTS

It's impossible not to consider this Argentine side contenders for the title. From the global icons in the squad to their fantastic qualifying run to the fact that the tournament is in South America, everything points to a serious run for the trophy. Their attack is second to none, but some might call their defense second-rate. Then again, at least on paper, their Group F opponents -- Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, and Nigeria -- shouldn't provide much resistence.   

GROUP F SCHEDULE

June 15: vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rio de Janeiro
June 21: vs. Iran, Belo Horizonte
June 25: vs. Nigeria, Porto Alegre

STARS TO WATCH

Lionel Messi, F, Barcelona: Arguably the best player in the world right now, Messi will be counted upon to lead a talented Argentina team to a World Cup title. The 26-year-old with an incredible knack for scoring and playmaking may already have more than enough hardware, but claiming a winner’s medal would add to the argument that he is one of the best to ever lace them up.

Gonzalo Higuaín, F, Napoli: Messi will undoubtedly shoulder much of the offensive load, but Higuaín will need to do his best to help alleviate that responsibility much in the same way he did during qualifying. Higuaín added nine goals to the Argentine captain’s 10, providing a goal-scoring threat that did not allow for opposing defenses to solely zero in on Messi.

Sergio Romero, GK, AS Monaco: After watching from the sidelines in Argentina’s first two qualifiers, Romero won the starting job and never looked back. He started the remaining 14 games for Argentina and posted four shutouts at a position the Albiceleste have historically struggled to fill.

THE COACH

Alejandro Sabella is the latest in a laundry list of managers hoping to guide Argentina back to the promised land. Hired on Dec. 16, 2011, after the firing of Sergio Batista, Sabella stepped in and helped the Albiceleste navigate through qualifying successfully and with relative ease. Will it translate into a smooth ride in Brazil?

The 59-year-old Argentine spent time at several clubs, including Leeds United and River Plate, during his 15-year playing career but his coaching resume is significantly shorter. Sabella managed Estudiantes de La Plata in his native Argentina from 2009-11 before being handed the national team job.

HOW THEY QUALIFIED

WCQ record: 9-2-5, 32 pts. / 35 GF, 15 GA (1st place in South America)

With no Brazil to worry about, Argentina did as many expected and took the top spot in CONMEBOL qualifying. They unsurprisingly had the most productive offense in the region, scoring 35 goals, and the defense conceded the second-lowest goal total with 15. Not too shabby.
 
WORLD CUP HISTORY

16th appearance

What’s a World Cup without Argentina? The Albiceleste booked their 11th straight trip to the World Cup finals and 16th overall by topping the nine-team South American table. Now, they will set their sights on winning a third World Cup trophy on its most bitter rival’s home soil -- and a first since Diego Maradona led them to glory back in 1986.
 
MLS/USA CONNECTIONS
 

Argentina played the US men’s national team since a 1-1 draw back in East Rutherford, N.J., in a friendly in March 2011, and has been stateside for multiple friendlies in recent years. …  Gonzalo Higuain is the brother of Columbus Crew foward Federico Higuaín. … Seattle Sounders DP midfielder Mauro Rosales earned 10 caps for Argentina back in 2004 and played for the nation’s Under-20 team that won the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship, as well as the gold-medal winning side at the 2004 Summer Olympics. … Montreal Impact DP midfielder Hernán Bernardello played once for the Albiceleste in 2009. … Portland Timbers signed Diego Valeri in 2013, approximately two years after he made his three career international appearances for Argentina. … Former Columbus Crew midfielder Guillermo Barros Schellotto, who won the MLS Cup in 2008, played 10 times for Argentina.