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FIFA World Cup team profile: Lionel Messi, Argentina aim for redemption

Argentina came very close to breaking their long wait to claim their third FIFA World Cup win in 2014 but it wasn’t meant to be. The Lionel Messi-led side will look for another run to the final with a different result this time around.

football Updated: Jun 08, 2018 22:25 IST
Shayne Dias
Shayne Dias
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Lionel Messi,Argentina football team,FIFA World Cup team
FIFA World Cup 2018 is perhaps Lionel Messi’s last shot at national glory.(AFP)

Head coach: Jorge Sampaoli

FIFA World Cup history: Qualified 16 times; best – champions (1978, 1986)

Qualifying route: Third place in CONMEBOL qualification (W7 D7 L4)

Squad: Goalkeepers - Nahuel Guzmán, Willy Caballero, Franco Armani; Defenders - Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Federico Fazio, Nicolas Tagliafico, Marcos Rojo, Marcos Acuna, Cristian Ansaldi, Eduardo Salvio; Midfielders - Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria, Ever Banega, Lucas Biglia, Manuel Lanzini, Giovani Lo Celso, Maximiliano Meza; Forwards - Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Cristian Pavon.

Argentina are one of the most successful footballing countries in the world yet their best performance in a FIFA World Cup until 1978 was a second place finish in the inaugural tournament in 1930.

They did not qualify for the three editions of the tournament from 1950-58 and failed to make it anywhere near the finals afterwards, with their best run coming in 1966 when they made the last eight.

However, that all changed in 1978. Hosting the tournament for the first – and so far only – time, the Argentina national football team claimed the trophy for the first time in their history.

That title win was the coming out party for Argentina. Although their subsequent title defence in 1982 was disappointing to say the least, the nation’s thirst for world glory had been awoken.

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They would win their second World Cup in 1986 thanks in no small part to the heroics of Diego Maradona, who almost single-handedly took them all the way to the mountaintop.

He was instrumental to their run to the final in 1990 but this time his genius was stifled by a Germany side that were as tactical as they were ruthless.

However, if the 1978 win announced them to the world then their second title win showed they were here to stay. Since 1986, La Albiceleste have failed to make it to the knockout stages only once in 2002.

They very nearly became only the fourth side to win a hat-trick of World Cups in 2014 but were once again thwarted by Germany.

The current squad comprises of many players who were part of the 2014 campaign, including Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, PSG’s Angel Di Maria and Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero.

Whether or not they can make the final again is up for debate, but it won’t be for a lack of trying on their part.

Three players to watch out for

Lionel Messi – Although international success has eluded him, the man many consider one of the greatest – if not the greatest – to lace up a pair of boots has won it all at club level. A trophy with Argentina is the only thing missing from his trophy cabinet thus far and he will be hungry to add that to his impressive collection of accomplishments.

Nicolas Otamendi – The Manchester City defender is coming off a good season at club level that saw him become an integral part of what was a dominant Premier League-winning side. Coach Jorge Sampaoli would do well to make him replicate club form for the country.

Angel Di Maria – The versatile attacker was a key reason for Argentina’s run to the final in 2014 as he often played provider to Messi as well as proving to be a hard-working presence in the middle of the park. He has been in fine for Paris Saint-Germain this season and will be keen to do his best for Argentina in this tournament.

First Published: Jun 08, 2018 20:00 IST