Lionel Messi - Argentina - Sept 2015
USA Today Sports

Argentina: Copa America Centenario Team Guide

Routinely one of the world's best, Argentina have nevertheless failed to win a major championship since 1993. Some of their stars, most notably reigning world player of the year Lionel Messi, have been charged with performing better for club than for country. That being said, Argentina are always a serious threat to win titles and the regular stateside visitors have gone 8-1-6 in games on American soil since 2000.

3 Stars

  • Lionel Messi – Generally viewed as the best player in the world, Messi has astonishing close control. He seems to have the ball on a string, moves annoyingly low to the ground and can out-wait a row of lunging defenders until he picks just the right moment to strike. He is able to score or set up goals in any manner he wishes.
  • Gonzalo Higuain – Often under-appreciated, the elegant striker is a ruthlessly cool hit man. He makes cruelly efficient runs and finishes expertly. Higuain also covers much more ground than most center forwards, dribbles very well and is quite adept at playmaking.
  • Javier Mascherano – Though he often plays center back for his club, Mascherano reverts to his natural midfield position with Argentina. From there, his tackling and top-shelf passing game help the Albiceleste turn defense into offense.

Manager

Gerardo Martino – Following a successful playing career as an attacking midfielder that saw him earn a single Argentina cap, Martino won four Paraguayan titles as manager of Cerro Porteno and Libertad. This earned him a six-year stint as Paraguay boss, which saw him guide the team to the World Cup 2010 quarters and the Copa America title match the following year. He the won an Argentine crown with Newell's Old Boys, but was let go after one season with Barcelona when the club lost the La Liga championship on the season's final day. He took over for Argentina in 2014, achieving another runners-up Copa America finish the following year.

Copa America Group D Schedule

June 6 vs. Chile (10 pm ET, Levi's Stadium – Santa Clara, Ca.)
June 10 vs. Panama (9:30 pm ET, Soldier Field – Chicago, Ill.)
June 14 vs. Bolivia (10 pm ET, CenturyLink Field – Seattle, Wa.)
Full schedule

Copa America Squad

Goalkeepers (3): Nahuel Guzman, Sergio Romero, Mariano Andujar
Defenders (7): Marcos Rojo, Facundo Roncaglia, Jonatan Maidana, Nicolas Otamendi, Gabriel Mercado, Ramiro Funes Mori, Victor Cuesta
Midfielders (7): Augusto Fernandez, Ever Banega, Lucas Biglia, Javier Mascherano, Erik Lamela, Matias Kranevitter, Javier Pastore
Forwards (6): Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Nicolas Gaitan, Angel Di Maria, Ezequiel Lavezzi

Starting XI (4-3-3)

  • GK: Sergio Romero (Manchester United)
  • RB: Gabriel Mercado (River Plate)
  • CB: Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City)
  • CB: Ramiro Funes Mori (Everton)
  • LB: Marcos Rojo (Manchester United)
  • DM: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona)
  • CM: Lucas Biglia (Lazio)
  • CM: Ever Banega (Sevilla)
  • RW: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
  • CF: Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli)
  • LW: Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain)

Style of play

Opponents should get ready to batten the hatches when lining up against Argentina, who play with skill and speed unmatched by most. They are extremely comfortable on the ball (even when it's not at Messi's feet), run combos that dazzle and attack in waves. Most foes won't see a great deal of the ball, as Argentina's defense is physical and agile in winning it back. This makes them as tough to beat in tight, low-scoring affairs as they are in track meets.

How they qualified

Automatically qualified.

Copa America history

The Albiceleste have won the crown 14 times, good for second-best, but haven't claimed it since 1993. Last year, Argentina reached the final, only to be beaten by hosts Chile on penalties. That gave them three runners-up finishes from the last four tourneys. Aside from their 2001 withdrawal, Argentina haven't failed to reach the knockouts in 33 years.

Memorable moments

There are plenty of trophies in the Argentina case, with the 1978 and 1986 World Cup crowns counting as their proudest achievements. The team has also raised Copa America silver 14 times, but their last CONMEBOL triumph came 23 years ago. In fact, that was their last major win, with six disappointing final losses occurring since then.

United States vs Argentina

Matches US Wins US Losses Draws
Overall 2 5 2
Official Competitions 1 3 0
Friendlies 1 2 2

MLS Connections

No foreign country can match the 76 players Argentina has placed in MLS throughout the league's history, and only Canada can top the 23 they have there now. Real Salt Lake's Javier Morales should reach the all-time top 10 in assists this season, Portland's Diego Valeri is a two-time Best XI choice and Ignacio Piatti has bagged 13 golas in just 32 games for Montreal. Several big names dot the list of former MLS players, including D.C. United's Christian Gomez (three Bext XI nods, one MVP trophy and an MLS Cup victory), Columbus Crew legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto (two Best XI selections to go with his MVP trophy and MLS Cup title from 2008) and longtime Argentine national team strike ace Claudio Lopez.

Team Guides