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2010 World Cup Contenders: Argentina

Maradona has much work to do before the big kick-off


Argentina coach Diego Maradona

Argentina coach Diego Maradona

Getty Images

There are serious questions about whether Diego Maradona is the man to carry the Argentina World Cup challenge.

His reign has been nothing if not incident packed. From the lows of a 6-1 defeat at altitude in Bolivia, to the highs of qualification away to bitter rivals Uruguay, his tenure has sparked debate right the way through the international soccer community.

Most agree that Maradona probably isn’t the coach for Argentina. National polls back up this notion, after a perilous but ultimately successful qualification for the World Cup. For several weeks it looked as though Argentina may finish fifth in the group and have to go through a play-off, or worse, not qualify at all.

Of course, the team's eventual success makes it difficult to sack the national icon, and it looks as though he will lead his side into the tournament next summer. This is despite numerous public outbursts, not least a bitter tirade against the media after the Uruguay match.

Argentina's struggles can be attributed to a number of factors. Throughout qualifying, Maradona was unable to maximize the talents of Lionel Messi, who looked a pale shadow of the player who excels with Barcelona. Maradona was also guilty of not calling up the excellent Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain until the end of the qualifiers.

His constant meddling with the squad - he has used over 100 players since taking over - meant there was little continuity in qualifying and it will be hoped that he now has a better idea of who he can trust going into the finals. He appears to have settled on a back-four but is set to deploy four defenders used to playing at center-back, raising questions about how much attacking thrust the team will have from the full-back positions.

Quick Facts:

  • Best World Cup Result: Winners (1978 and 1986)
  • Best Copa America Result: Winners (1921, 1925, 1927, 1929, 1937, 1941, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1991 and 1993)
  • Record Scorer: Gabriel Batistuta (56 goals between 1991 and 2002)
  • Most Capped Player: Javier Zanetti
  • Coach: Diego Maradona
  • Captain: Javier Mascherano

23-man Argentina World Cup Squad:

Goalkeepers: Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (AZ Alkmaar), Mariano Andujar (Catania), Diego Pozo (Colon)

Defenders: Nicolas Burdisso (Inter Milan), Martin Demichelis (Bayern Munich), Walter Samuel (Inter Milan), Gabriel Heinze (Olympique Marseille), Nicolas Otamendi (Velez Sarsfield), Clemente Rodriguez (Estudiantes), Ariel Garce (Colon)

Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Liverpool), Juan Sebastian Veron (Estudiantes), Maximiliano Rodriguez (Liverpool), Mario Bolatti (Fiorentina), Angel Di Maria (Benfica), Jonas Gutierrez (Newcastle), Javier Pastore (Palermo)

Forwards: Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid), Diego Milito (Inter Milan), Martin Palermo (Boca Juniors), Carlos Tevez (Manchester City), Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid), Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Group Matches:

Saturday, June 12, 2010 v Nigeria
Thursday, June 17, 2010 v South Korea
Tuesday, June 22, 2010, v Greece

Prediction: Semi-Finals

Argentina are favorites to top a group that doesn't look too daunting on paper. Maradona's side were capable of spectacular capitulations during qualifying, but he should have worked intensively on the shape of his side before kick-off in South Africa.

It is tough to say who they may face in the last-16 but a repeat of their 2006 World Cup clash with Mexico is a distinct possibility. It was an enthralling game in Germany, one settled by a wonder strike from Maxi Rodriguez in extra time.

Assuming they edge past Javier Aguirre's men, a repeat of the 2006 quarter-final against Germany could be on the cards. The Germans thoroughly deserved their penalty shootout win over Argentina after a 1-1 draw, but if the South Americans' attacking players are on song, they may have the edge.

To find out more about the tournament, visit the World Cup section.

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