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SquadEdit

Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Monaco), Agustin Orion (Boca Juniors), Mariano Andujar (Catania)

Defenders: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Ezequiel Garay (Benfica), Federico Fernandez (Napoli), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon), Hugo Campagnaro (Inter Milan), Jose Basanta (Monterrey), Martin Demichelis (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors), Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Maxi Rodriguez (Newell's Old Boys), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan), Augusto Fernandez (Celta de Vigo), Enzo Perez (Benfica)

Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Rodrigo Palacio (Inter), Ezequiel Lavezzi (PSG)

Argentina
Edit

Team ProfileEdit

The FIFA World Cup's return to South America presents Argentina with a chance to impress after 20 years of underachievement.

Since winning the tournament for a second time in 1986 and reaching the final four years later, Argentina have failed to make it beyond the quarter-finals.

Things have not been much better in the Copa America - a competition they have not won since 1993 - but it may be time for Argentina to bear the fruit of a golden generation of players who won back-to-back Olympic titles in 2004 and 2008.

In fact, many of the players who fired the country to gold in Beijing will feature in Brazil, and Argentina have previous form when it comes to giving their best closer to home.

Three of the nation's four appearances in the World Cup final have come in the Americas, but coach Alejandro Sabella does not believe sides from the continent will be better-equipped for the conditions in Brazil.

"Playing in North and South America is not the same," he told FIFA.com.

"It's one thing to play in Mexico, where heat and altitude come into it, and another to play in Chile or Argentina, where World Cups are held in the winter.

"Brazil is in between and it's almost a sub-continent in itself. There are venues where the temperature is 24 or 25 degrees, which is not the same as getting 33 or 34 degrees with high humidity.

"Maybe players won't feel it on the day, but they will in the next game. It all depends, then, on how they respond over the tournament as a whole."

Argentina have been handed one of the most favourable draws in the tournament, lining up alongside Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria in Group F.

And with the runner-up of Group E - Switzerland, Ecuador, France or Honduras - awaiting the winner in the last 16, Argentina are unlikely to be truly tested until a potential meeting with Portugal or Germany in the quarter-finals.

The Germans have been responsible for Argentina's last-eight exit at the last two tournaments - a scenario Sabella will be keen to avoid this time around.

If Sabella's men are to make a bid for the title in Brazil, much of the onus will fall on his menacing front line.

Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and, of course, Lionel Messi are just some of the names who will strike fear into opponents and make up one of the best attacks at the tournament on paper.

Weaknesses at the back - first-choice goalkeeper Sergio Romero made just three Ligue 1 appearances for Monaco last season - could prove to be Argentina's downfall.

That said, it did not prove to be a problem in qualifying, as Argentina topped the CONMEBOL standings, comfortably outscoring everybody else with 35 goals in 16 games and boasting the second meanest defence behind runners-up Colombia.

The World Cup may not hold many happy memories for Argentina over the past two decades, but, with the tournament taking place in South America, expect the perennial underachievers to make a real go of at least reaching the semi-finals this year.


Player Profile (Lionel Messi)Edit

Position: Forward
Date of Birth: June 24, 1987
Club: Barcelona
International Debut: v Hungary (August 17, 2005)
World Cup Appearances: 8
World Cup Goals: 1

Lionel Messi has long been a shining light of club football, but he is yet to enjoy a career-defining FIFA World Cup.

Players considered the greatest of all time will forever be associated with a particular tournament - Pele had Mexico 1970 and Diego Maradona shone in the same nation in 1986.

However, Argentina captain Messi is still seeking his moment in the international spotlight, despite being crowned the world's best player for four of the past five years.

Having fended off the challenge of Real Madrid winger Cristiano Ronaldo - his long-term rival for the best-in-the-world mantle - in 2011 and 2012, Messi finally relinquished the Ballon d'Or to the Portuguese when it was awarded for 2013 earlier this year.

There is no doubt that the diminutive attacking midfielder will be remembered alongside the likes of Pele and Maradona long after his playing days are through, but with this year's tournament taking place on his home continent of South America, opportunity knocks for Messi to make his biggest impact yet at the global showpiece.

Messi moved to Camp Nou from his homeland in 2000 with Barcelona offering to arrange treatment for his growth hormone deficiency and made his La Liga debut against Espanyol in 2004 after working his way through the club's youth ranks.

Crowned top goalscorer and best player in Argentina's successful 2005 Under-20 World Cup campaign, Messi became the youngest player to represent his country at a World Cup in 2006 and scored one group-stage goal in the 6-0 thrashing of Serbia and Montenegro.

Argentina made the quarter-finals on that occasion, losing out to hosts Germany on penalties, although Messi did not feature in that last-eight encounter.

Messi established himself as one of the game's elite players over the following four years, winning an Olympic gold medal in 2008 and the second of three UEFA Champions League titles in 2009 before heading to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Argentina reached the last eight only to again suffer heartache at the hands of Germany, with Messi this time playing the full 90 minutes in a disappointing 4-0 defeat.

Messi, who scored a record 50 goals in 37 La Liga appearances during the 2011-12 campaign, has endured an injury-marred 2013-14 - arguably his first major setback since pulling on a Barcelona shirt for the first time.

But Messi has still managed to become the club's leading all-time goalscorer in all competitions and overtake compatriot Alfredo Di Stefano as El Clasico's top marksman.

There is no doubt that Argentina - perennial underachievers since last lifting the biggest prize in world football in 1986 and finishing second four years later - will need Messi to be at his peak if they are to end a run of five World Cups without getting further than the last eight.

Encouragingly for coach Alejandro Sabella, three of Argentina's four appearances in the final have come in North or South America, and he is well aware of Messi's importance to the side.

"The fact is that he's irreplaceable," he said in a recent interview with FIFA.com.

"There's not a club or national team in the world that could play the same with or without Messi.

"We rely on him so much that when he's not there, we notice it."


News SourcesEdit

Argentina FA - http://www.afa.org.ar/?lang=es

Mundo Albiceleste - http://www.mundoalbiceleste.com/

Telam - http://www.telam.com.ar/deportes

BBC Argentina page - http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/teams/argentina

Sky Argentina page - http://www1.skysports.com/FIFA-World-Cup-2014/argentina