FIFA ranking: 5
How they qualified: Finished 3rd in CONMEBOL qualifiying
World Cup appearances: 16
Best result: Winners (1978, 1986)
Argentina, also known as ‘The Albiceleste’, is a South American national team that has appeared in 5 World Cup finals, winning 2 of them. Argentina was always blessed with exceptional talent, Mario Kempes, Diego Maradona, Hernán Crespo, Gabriel Batistuta and of course Lionel Messi just to name a few. Their qualification campaign was almost a total disaster even though they boast arguably one of the best attacking talents in world football, including players such as the aforementioned Messi, Higuain, Aguero, Dybala and Icardi among many more. They only managed to score 19 goals – equal with bottom placed Venezuela and 7th Paraguay, and with only Bolivia scoring less. It looked like Argentina might cause a huge shock and miss their first World Cup since 1970 when they went 1-0 down to Ecuador in the first minute on the final matchday, but enter the majestic Messi, who turned the match on its head with a wonderful hat-trick to send Argentina through to the 2018 World Cup.
The Argentinian led Chile to the knockout stages at Brazil 2014, before leaving Spanish club Sevilla to join his home country and lead them to Russia with his brand of high-tempo pressing football. Sampaoli was Argentina’s third coach in their qualifying campaign and the 2015 Copa America winner finally found the right formula to reach the 2018 World Cup.
The Star Man
Considered one of the best players in history, Messi has been voted FIFA’s player of the year on 5 occasions. The Barcelona star helped The Albiceleste reach the World Cup with his 7 goals; with only Cavani scoring more in the CONMEBOL qualifying. Argentina’s captain and all-time leading goal scorer will be making his fourth appearance at World Cup in Russia.
World Cup Chances
Having reached the final in the previous World Cup in Brazil and having some of the best attackers in the world, Argentina fans have a lot to be optimistic about this summer. With the defensive problems of the past perhaps disappearing as the 16 goals conceded (2nd best behind Brazil) show, and having a relatively easy group on paper, with Iceland, Nigeria and Croatia, the sky’s the limit for The Albiceleste. Can Messi finally help his nation win the World Cup and cement his place as the greatest of all time?
His transfer saga is a confusing one, as back in March, news broke out about Martínez and a deal with Atletico Madrid. Atletico claimed that they had all but closed a deal for the 20-year-old back in December 2017, with the player having passed a medical and signing a deal with the intention of paying the nine million euro buy-out clause to Racing. Although a contract was agreed, it was not binding with FIFA as the player had a contract with Racing until 2020 and Atletico had no intention to take the case to a tribunal. Forward to April, and it looks like Martínez is joining Inter Milan in the summer as Racing president Victor Blanco confirmed in a radio interview: “As far as Racing is concerned, everything has been settled with the Nerazzurri. The player’s decision was to go to Spain or Italy.” Borussia Dortmund were also believed to have submitted an offer for Martínez but Victor Blanco stated that ‘’the offer arrived too late’’ with Racing Club wanting to honour their previous agreement with Inter Milan.