ARGENTINA won two editions of the World Cup, but the most recent was in 1986 and they approach South Africa 2010 from a platform of recent d i s a p p o i n t ment s and poor results.
Coach Diego Maradona and superstar Lionel Messi (left) have been unable to lead the side confidently off and on the pitch, and Argentina only secured a place in South Africa in the last game of the qualifiers.
By that time, fans in the football- crazy country were growing restless. They want to see their team reclaim global glory, but recent play – and the results of the last few World Cups – provide ample evidence that that will not be easy.
In the qualifiers Maradona has fielded scores of players without finding an ideal team, or even so much as a reliable side. Striker Messi – arguably the best player in the world – has been a shadow of the player who last season led Barcelona to an historic treble.
Other world-class stars, like Carlos Tevez or Sergio Aguero, have also been unconvincing while keeper Sergio Romero has only been in goal for a couple of games.
Argentina head for South Africa as a most hesitant team, one that only qualified fourth in the South American region and only escaped the playoffs in the last round.
Against that backdrop, it may be a good thing that expectations are not very high ahead of the trip to South Africa.
Having said that, however, rivals in the World Cup would be ill-advised to consider Argentina anything less than a sleeping giant.
The Star: Lionel Messi is arguably the best player in the world, and he is regarded as the main candidate to win the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA Player of the Year award in 2009. But for all his record-breaking prowess at the club-level he has consistently disappointed Argentine fans.