Wednesday, Jun. 02, 2010


Manager: Diego Maradona

Best: Winners (1978, 1986)

They may routinely turn out some of the world's most sublimely talented players — think of 1986's winning captain Diego Maradona, or his modern-day equivalent Lionel Messi — but they're possibly better known as perennial World Cup chokers. They did, of course, win the cup in 1978 and '86, but otherwise have consistently performed below expectations. The 2010 qualifying campaign was a shambles, with the mercurial Maradona in his role as coach using upwards of 70 different players in a squad that narrowly squeezed through. He sounded further alarm bells by omitting from his defensively suspect World Cup squad the richly talented and experienced Inter Milan pair of Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso. But Argentina are blessed with the world's best player, Lionel Messi, with a stellar supporting cast in attack including Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez. World Cups, however, are won in midfield and defense, and Maradona's intention to play four centerbacks — none of them especially quick — is cause for concern, even if they're shielded by Liverpool's tigerish holding midfielder Javier Mascherano.

Player to watch: Need we say it, the Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, currently the most gifted and entertaining player in world soccer