National Team Statistics: Argentina

Nickname: Albicelestes (white and sky blues)
Home Stadium: El Monumental
Founded: 1901
Most Appearances: Javier Zanetti: 128 Caps
Leading Goal Scorer: Gabriel Batistuta: 56 goals
Current Manager: Diego Maradona
World Cup Performances: 14 Appearances
Best Performance: Winners: 1978 & 1986
Copa America Performances: 38 Appearances
Best Performance: Winners: 14 times

Argentinean Team History:

In terms of trophies accumulated, the Argentinean national side is the most successful in the history of football. Over the years, the Albicelestes have won two World Cup’s, 14 Copa America’s, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, and a Confederation Cup. They are one of two teams, the other being France, to have won the three recognised FIFA tournament’s as well as their own regional championship (Copa America). Argentina has also won the World Youth Cup a record 6 times to stand alone, as France has never lifted this trophy.

Beginning - 1959

The Argentine National team played its first competitive match in 1901, when it faced Uruguay in Montevideo. Twenty nine years later these two sides would meet again in Montevideo to contest the World Cup final, which the home team would go onto win, but on this occasion Argentina ran out winners by three goals to two.

Guillermo Stabile

In 1930, Argentina headed to the first World Cup in Uruguay as Silver medallists’ from the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games with high hopes of becoming the first ever World Champions. Drawn in the only group containing 4 teams, the Argentine’s swept through their group. They won all three matches and in the process they scored 10 goals and conceded just 4. Guillermo Stabile, who would go onto to lift the Golden Shoe, scored 5 of his 8 goals in the final two group matches. Into the semi final and the South American’s thrashed the USA 6-1 to set up a repeat of the 1928 Olympic final against Uruguay. Despite trailing after just 12 minutes, Argentina rallied to lead 2-1 at the break, but in the second half they were no match for the Uruguayan’s who scored three unanswered goals to be crowned the first ever FIFA World Champions.

Four years later the Albicelestes headed over to Italy for the second staging of the World Cup. The tournament format had changed from the finals in Uruguay and was now a simple knockout competition. In the first round, Argentina drew European side Sweden. The South American’s made the perfect start scoring after just 4 minutes, but conceded five minutes later and the half finished 1-1. The second half began just as well as the first had for Argentina and they lead 2-1 just three minutes after the restart. However, like the final in 1930, the wheels fell off again and two second half goals from Sweden were enough to send Argentina back home.

From 1934 until 1958 Argentina withdrew from every World Cup finals. They finally re-entered the world stage in Sweden in 1958. The format had reverted back to a round robin group stage and then knockout matches. The Argentine’s made a poor start being beaten 3-1 by West Germany in their opening match, but bounced back to beat Northern Ireland by the same score line in their second fixture. Needing at least a point to progress to the quarter finals, Argentina was thrashed 6-1 by Czechoslovakia and eliminated. The defeat by the Czech’s in ’58 is still today the most amount of goals they have ever conceded and the biggest defeat they have ever suffered.

1960 - 1979

After having not attended the World Cup finals for 22 years before 1958, Argentina made it back to back finals as they qualified to take their place at Chile 1962. They were drawn in a group that contained 3 European sides, Hungary, Bulgaria and England. This time Argentina made a good start and overcame Bulgaria in the opening match, with the only goal of the game being scored after just 4 minutes. Their second match saw them face England, who needed a win after defeat in their first match. England marched into a three goal lead and all Argentina could do was grab a consolation goal with just 9 minutes remaining. In the final group game, the South American’s needed a win to qualify but could only manage a 0-0 draw to once again find themselves going home after the first round.

Argentina again qualified for the finals in England in 1966. In a potentially tough group with strong European sides West Germany and Spain, the South American’s acquitted themselves well finishing second only on goal average after victories against Spain and Switzerland and a goalless draw with the West Germans. Through to the knock out phase for the first time since 1930, Argentina then drew hosts England in what would become an infamous World Cup match. The match was an ill tempered affair with both sides committing numerous fouls. Argentine captain, Antonio Rattin, became the first man to be sent off in a full international match at Wembley. At first he refused to leave the pitch and eventually had to be escorted from the field by policemen. The referee later revealed that he’d sent Rattin off because of the way he looked at him.

Rattin being sent off against England

Rattin being sent off against England

Geoff Hurst scored the only goal of the game to put England through and after the match, England manager, Alf Ramsey described the Argentine team as “animals,” something which has never been forgotten in Argentina. The game itself is remembered as “the robbery of the century.”

After their most successful finals since the 1930 tournament, Argentina failed to qualify for Mexico 1970, but took their place four years later in West Germany. Drawn in a group with Poland, Italy and Haiti, the Argentine’s started poorly and suffered defeat in their opening match against Poland. They followed that result with a 1-1 draw with 1970 finalists Italy and needed a substantial win in their final match against Haiti to qualify for the second round. A 4-1 win was just enough to allow Argentina to sneak through on goal difference. In the second round the South American’s struggled and registered only one point. They were on the receiving end of a 4-0 stuffing by the mercurial Dutch and then suffered a 2-1 loss at the hands of the reigning champions Brazil. In their final match they managed a draw with East Germany and were eliminated from the finals.

Home fans at Argentina ‘78

Home fans at Argentina ‘78

In 1978, Argentina was awarded the honour of hosting the finals and with the backing of the passionate home crowd the Albicelestes went all the way and lifted the trophy for the first time. The finals will be fondly remembered for the cascade of tickertape and streamers that came from the crowds and also a good performance by the home side despite some controversy in the second group stage. Drawn in a tough first round group with Italy, France and Hungary, the hosts made an excellent start winning their first two matches 2-1 against Hungary and France before suffering a 1-0 defeat against Italy. The second group stage began well for the hosts as Mario Kempes bagged a brace in a 2-0 win over Poland and they followed it with a goalless draw with Brazil. In the final round of matches in the group, Brazil played a few hours before Argentina and won 3-1. Argentina now knew that a win by 4 clear goals would see them through to the final. Trailing by two goals to nil at half time, Peru fell apart and conceded a further four goals. Brazil believed that the Peruvian’s had been bribed as it appeared that they simply weren’t trying and highlighted the fact that the Peruvian goalkeeper was born in Argentina. No evidence was found to prove these accusations and the result stood. In the final, the Netherlands stood between Argentina and first World title. Kempes gave Argentina a half time lead with his 5th goal of the finals and the hosts held the lead until the eighty second minute when the Dutch equalised. In extra time, Argentina proved too strong and a second from Kempes and one from Bertoni sealed Argentina’s first triumph.

Mario Kempes scores in the 1978 final

Mario Kempes scores in the 1978 final

1980-1999

As defending champions, Argentina lined up in Spain in 1982 with a new superstar in their ranks. The tournament in Spain was Diego Maradona’s first in a career that took him to four World Cups. Things didn’t begin well for the reigning champions as they were beaten 1-0 by Belgium in their opening match. Argentina rebounded well and won their next two games against Hungary and El Salvador to qualify for the second round. Their second round group was a true group of death. Drawn alongside an Italy side that was finally finding its feet and one of the greatest Brazil sides ever assembled, even for the defending champions it was going to be a tough ask. It was too much to ask for Argentina. They suffered defeats in both games losing 2-1 to Italy and then 3-1 to Brazil and their reign as champions was over.

Eight years after their first World Cup victory, Argentina lifted the trophy again in Mexico in 1986, a tournament in which Maradona truly established himself as one of football’s all time greats inspiring those around him to greatness. The South Americans began the tournament well, winning two of their opening matches and drawing the third against defending champions Italy to top the group on goal difference. In the round of 16 a 1-0 win over fellow South American’s Uruguay set up a quarter final with England. It was the game in which Argentina justice was done after the meeting in 1966. The match would turn out to be Maradona’s defining moment as he scored two goals that will forever be remembered for different reasons.

Maradona scores with “the hand of God”

Maradona scores with “the hand of God”

The first was the goal that Maradona claimed was scored by “the hand of God” as he handled the ball past England ‘keeper Peter Shilton. The second is regarded as the finest goal in World Cup history as Maradona, starting in his own half he single handed dribbled past half the England team, rounded Shilton and slotted the ball home. England pulled one back through Lineker but Argentina held on to win 2-1. In the semi final Maradona again scored twice to defeat Belgium with one of the goals another sensational solo effort. In the final, Argentina established a two goal lead only to surrender their advantage with only 10 minutes remaining. Up stepped Maradona, who laid on a perfect pass for Burrachaga to run onto and slot home the winning goal and give Argentina their second title.

Captain Maradona lifts the trophy

Captain Maradona lifts the trophy

Argentina headed to Italy as defending champions once more and almost suffered the ignominy of being eliminated in the group stage. They lost the opening game of the finals in one of the biggest shocks in finals history. Facing off against the unfancied African nation, Cameroon, Argentina suffered a 1-0 defeat despite Cameroon having two players sent off over the 90minutes. They recovered well to beat the USSR in their second match but could only manage a draw in their 3rd match to scrape through as one of the best placed third placed teams. Taking advantage of their reprieve, Argentina then eliminated Brazil, Yugoslavia and hosts Italy despite only scoring 2 goals and needing two penalty shoot outs to progress. In an uninspiring final against West Germany, the European side was awarded a controversial penalty which was converted by Andy Brehme with just 5 minutes remaining to end Argentina’s reign as champions once more.

Argentina’s campaign in the USA in 1994 was hugely overshadowed by the banning of Maradona for the use of a banned substance and his subsequent expulsion from the tournament cast a huge black cloud of the South American nation. They started the tournament in fine form beating both Greece and Nigeria in their opening two matches. It was the game against Greece that after Maradona scored, he ran towards to sideline with his eyes bulging, screaming at the camera in a seemingly drug induced craze.

Maradona after scoring against Greece

Maradona after scoring against Greece

Argentina lost their final group match to Bulgaria but proceeded to the round of 16 as one of the best placed 3rd placed teams. In a fantastic game against Romania, the Maradona-less Argentines suffered a 3-2 defeat in a fascinating match. A stunning winning goal coming from the “Maradona of the Carpathians,” Gheorghe Hagi was enough to seal Argentina’s fate.

The Argentina squad that travelled to France in 1998 was hugely talented and widely expected to do well. They began the tournament in fine style winning their three group matches scoring 7 goals and conceding none, including a 5-0 win against new comers Jamaica. In the round of sixteen, they faced old foes England in what would be the match of the tournament. Gabriel Batistuta opened the scoring after just 6 minutes with a penalty, but England responded with a penalty of their own to level with just 10 minutes gone. Six minutes later, England was in front after a stunning solo goal from Michael Owen. Back came Argentina and levelled in first half stoppage time after a brilliantly crafted free kick that was converted by Zanetti. Within minutes of the restart, England was reduced to 10 men as David Beckham was shown a red card.

Beckham sees red

Beckham sees red

The match continued to seesaw and England defender Sol Campbell had a goal disallowed with minutes remaining before extra time. Neither side could find a third goal and Argentina progressed after a tense penalty shootout. After that memorable game with England, the Argentine’s followed it up with another exciting match against the Netherlands. The Dutch took the lead after 12 minutes only to concede an equaliser just 5 minutes later. Both sides had a man sent off before Dennis Bergkamp scored a stunning goal in the 89th minute to send Argentina home once more.

2000 – Present

After a stunning qualifying campaign, Argentina was installed as one of the favourites to lift the trophy at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. Their hugely talented squad was drawn in “the group of death” with Sweden, Nigeria and old rivals England. A 1-0 victory against Nigeria got their campaign off to a good start but they were undone in the second game when a David Beckham penalty was enough to give England a one nil win. Argentina could only manage a 1-1 draw in their final match against Sweden and amidst scenes of total devastation the highly fancied Argentine’s were on their way home.

A distraught Gabriel Batistuta in 2002

A distraught Gabriel Batistuta in 2002

In 2006, Argentina was once again drawn in “the group of death” with the Netherlands, Serbia & Montenegro and the Ivory Coast. Argentina topped the group by virtue of goal difference with 7 points after 2 wins and a draw. In their second game Argentina thrashed Serbia & Montenegro 6-0 in a glorious display of attacking football and clinical finishing. The manner of the victory established Argentina as favourites for the World Cup, such was the ease at which they beat the European side. In the round of 16, extra time was needed as, Argentina came from behind to beat Mexico by two goals to one and set up a quarter final with host nation Germany. Argentina took the lead four minutes after half time and seemed to be heading for victory until Klose equalised with just 10 minutes remaining. No further goals were scored in the ninety minutes nor the additional 30 minutes of extra time and a penalty shootout was required to separate the two sides. In true German tradition, the hosts converted all 4 of the penalties they took and won the shoot out by four penalties to two to end Argentina’s participation in the finals.

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