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Why Argentina will win the next World Cup (probably)
With the qualification process for Brazil 2014, heating up, it is timely to look at the various contenders for the World Cup, and who may be in with a chance of winning next year. The hosts will be expected to win, and claim their sixth World Cup crown.
Spain will be looking to continue their domination of the international game, Germany will hope to overcome their recent big tournament curse of going close but not quite close enough, whilst Italy showed at Euro 2012 that they have the spine of an excellent team. A side built around Juventus’ stability in defence and AC Milan’s effervescence going forward could just shock a few.
Mexico, whose youngsters have enjoyed a remarkable few years, winning trophy after trophy at youth level and the Olympic crown last summer, will be a dark horse, and Uruguay will hope their current form is only a blip as the Copa America champions look to make an impact. Yet it is another side who perhaps look the best bet of all; Argentina.
These are the reasons that Argentina could well walk away with the Jules Rimet trophy in a little under 18 months’ time.
1. Sabella brings stability
Argentina have not actually lost a significant match since Alejandro Sabella took over from Sergio Batista after their disastrous performance on home soil at the 2011 Copa America. Argentina’s only defeat has come to Brazil in the ‘Super Clasico of the Americas’, a clash between the two nations which only uses domestic based players.
Given the riches in Brazilian football, that will always favour Brazil, but the Argentines won a game between their full strength teams last year. Soaring away at the top of the World Cup qualifying group, Argentina are in fine form and if they keep this up over the next year, they will be a huge threat.
2. Agüero and Gago provide the balance Messi needs to shine
Sabella’s Argentina has been a more intelligent tactical structure than that of his predecessor Sergio Batista, who tried to copy the Barcelona system to get the best out of Leo Messi. But Batista did not have the players to play that system, no equivalent of Xavi or Andres Iniesta, and perhaps more critically a lack of rampaging full backs.
Sabella has Sergio Agüero and Gonzalo Higuaín playing alongside Messi, using their pace to force opposing defences back and to take a deeper line, thus stretching the play and creating the space for Messi to drop back and thrive. With Fernando Gago’s superb range of passing just behind the Barcelona star, Argentina are well suited to supply Messi the ball in the space he needs to play at his best.
3. The world’s best collection of forwards
Few would argue that Spain do not possess the finest collection of midfielders in world football, and Italy seem to be developing the best defenders in the game once again. But in terms of forwards, none in global football matches that of the Argentines.
In addition to Messi, who else can call upon such a wide range of talents as Agüero, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuaín, Angel di Maria, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore?
4. Javier Mascherano
Maybe not the most spectacular of this current Argentine side, but Mascherano is absolutely pivotal tactically. The Barcelona man is arguably the master of the defensive midfield position. The role has changed somewhat over recent years, with swift intelligent passing now more important physical strength or tackling ability.
Mascherano’s work rate, inherent leadership skills (he is something of a reluctant captain of the side) and passing ability make him the ideal defensive midfielder, the perfect player to rely upon when making that ever crucial transition from defensive to attacking phases of play. Mascherano has improved immensely and adapted brilliantly to Barcelona.
Few players understand the movements and tactical system that Barcelona use, and Mascherano was not a natural fit, yet the fact that he has made the transition shows a high level of maturity and intelligence.
With Argentina’s collection of attackers, that is even more important. With Gago and Ever Banega, Mascherano has two superb ball playing midfielders to find, as he does at Barcelona when he looks to make that first pass forward to set his team on the counter attack. With Argentina’s array of attacking talent, this makes them exceptionally dangerous.
5. The World Cup is taking place in South America
No team outside of South America has ever won a World Cup held on this continent. Three previous tournaments have been won by Uruguay twice and Argentina once. Uruguay may do well but probably will not win, with their early exit at the Olympics last year seeming to mark the end of a wonderful period in the country’s football. And the pressure on Brazil will be enormous.
This is a country which lost the 1950 World Cup to Uruguay on home soil. The night before the match they were proclaimed world champions, the result seen as an inevitability. The defeat at the Maracanã is known as the Maracanãzo, such was the trauma the Brazilians have suffered, and which they have never really got over.
Nothing short of victory next year will do if they are to finally put memories of 1950 to bed, but last year’s defeat to Mexico in the final of the Olympics, when Brazil had huge pressure on their shoulders, shows that this is a generation which seems to lack its big match nerve. If Brazil fail again, then Argentina are the obvious favourites.