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World Cup 2014 Guide: Argentina

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Argentina have been rewarded for topping the South American qualifiers ahead of the likes of Columbia and Uruguay by being placed in Group F along with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria and Iran, which is a group Argentina will be expecting to win with ease. The Argentinian public and players will be delighted to have been placed in such a group as it gives them a base to start off on in a tournament that they will hope to go all the way to win, and where is better to win the World Cup than in the homeland of your greatest rivals? Such is the strength of attacking options available to Sabella, Juventus striker Carlos Tevez has been deemed surplus to requirements for this tournament. The majority of this squad are heading into their prime footballing years, which is reflected by the bookmakers making Argentina second favourites to lift the trophy, behind the hosts and rivals Brazil. Many people expect the final to be the two sides, as the way the draw has worked means they can’t face off before that stage. Can Argentina, and Lionel Messi, finally prove their credentials on the World Stage?

Key Players

Pablo Zabaleta – Manchester City right back will be important should Argentina go all the way in Brazil this year. The 29-year-old will have to use his experience to ensure that Argentina don’t defend as poorly as they have done in recent World Cups. He will be hoping to carry on the good feeling from last season as he lifted both the Premier League and League Cup for Manchester City. If Argentina can defend solidly their attacking talent could cause damage to any side.

Angel Di Maria – At the beginning of last season it looked as if Di Maria’s time at Real Madrid could be up following the arrival of World record transfer Gareth Bale, but instead Di Maria has risen to the challenge and reinvented himself in the side. His non-stop running to aid both defence and attack was vital for the Spanish giants as they lifted the Champions League, with Di Maria winning the man of the match award in that game. Di Maria will be needed as the link between the Argentina defence and attack, and his high energy style will be vital in the head in Brazil as other players may suffer due to poor stamina.

Gonzalo Higuain – The Napoli striker had an impressive debut season in Serie A netting 17 goals. He is not as effective as Argentina’s other attacking stars outside the area, but his finishing ability it second to none. This could be just as important as the creativity and link-up play of the likes of Di Maria, Aguero and Messi as in the World Cup there is sure to be a game where even the best attacking line up’s chances will be limited. He grabbed 9 goals in qualifying which was only bettered by Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, both of whom scored a number of goals from the spot, something Higuain never. He will be hoping to add to his 20 Argentina goals throughout the tournament.

Lionel Messi – What can be said about the little genius that hasn’t already been said? The Barcelona superstar is captain for his national side and will have the expectations of a nation on his shoulders when the tournament starts. Messi has won the Ballon d’Or on 4 occasions, more than any other player in history. However, he has often been criticised for his performances at the international level, and has only scored one goal at a World Cup finals for Argentina. Despite this, many people have claimed that Messi is the greatest player in the history of the game. A successful World Cup campaign would certainly add ammunition to that argument and Messi will be determined to prove that he is the best in the World currently, after a disappointing season in which he missed out on a lot of football through injury as Barcelona went through the season without winning a major trophy and Messi lost his Ballon d’Or crown to Cristiano Ronaldo. Can Messi inspire Argentina to lift the trophy?

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