have contested four FIFA World Cup Finals in all, the first of them at the inaugural tournament, Uruguay 1930, when they went down 4-2 to the host nation. Respective contributions from Mario Kempes and Diego Maradona inspired them to the biggest prize in football on home soil in 1978 and again at Mexico 1986, while their last showpiece appearance came at Italy 1990, when they were denied by an Andreas Brehme penalty. Since then they have been unable to progress beyond the quarter-finals.
The current crop
Argentina rang the changes after making their second consecutive last-eight exit to Germany at South Africa 2010, with Sergio Batista taking over from Maradona as coach. Significant friendly wins over Spain, Brazil and Portugal then followed, but after going out as hosts in the quarter-finals of the Copa America 2011, the coach lost his job with Alejandro Sabella named as his successor.
The key players
Voted FIFA World Player for the last two years, Lionel Messi is the undisputed leader of Batista’s side. Having just turned 24, and a multiple-trophy winner with Barcelona, La Pulga is now looking to achieve greatness with his country after failing, somewhat surprisingly, to find the back of the net at South Africa 2010. Supporting him will be an all-star cast featuring Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano and Angel Di Maria, all of them on top of their game with some of Europe’s leading clubs.
Coach: Alejandro Sabella
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup Argentina 1978, Mexico 1986 (Winners), FIFA U-20 World Cup Japan 1979, Qatar 1995, Malaysia 1997, Argentina 2001, Netherlands 2005, Canada 2007 (Winners), FIFA Confederations Cup Saudi Arabia 1992 (Winners), Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 (Winners)
Former stars: Daniel Passarella, Diego Maradona, Gabriel Batistuta