Argentina is international soccer royalty, often seen as one of the world’s most consistently best countries. They have won two World Cups, in 1978 and 1986, been runners-up three times, most recently in 2014. They have been drawn in Group C with Mexico, Poland, and Saudi Arabia, which should offer a clear path to the Round of 16 for the third highest-ranked team in the world by FIFA. Here are five reasons why Argentina will make it out of Group C and have a chance to win it all at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
1. Lionel Messi
When you think of the best Argentinians to play soccer, two names come up, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi. Arguably two of the greatest soccer players in the history of the sport. Messi has the most caps and goals for the Argentinian national team with 162 and 86. For nearly two decades, Argentina’s national team has revolved around Messi, as he became one of the most dominant players in the world, winning trophy after trophy with Barcelona. Messi has won the Ballon d’Or seven times, which is the most times anyone has won the award. The trophy is awarded to the best men’s soccer player in the world after every season and is judged based on club and national team success. Messi will be 35 years old and in his fifth World Cup, which might be his last.
2. Argentina’s Recent Success
On their way to qualifying for the World Cup, Argentina looked terrific. In the 17 games they never lost, going 11W-6D-0L, scoring 27 goals while allowing eight, finishing with 39 points in second place. They have climbed FIFA’s rankings, being ranked eighth in May 2021, and have moved up to third as of June 2022. However, their reliance on Messi to be the team’s focal point is a big reason why No. 1 Brazil is above them. Brazil also did not lose a game in qualification, winning 14 of 17 games, with a goal difference of 35. Despite that, in the 2021 COPA America, a tournament spanning all nations in South America, Argentina beat Brazil in the final, winning their first major trophy since 1993, the last time they won Copa America.
3. Winning for Messi
In Argentina, Messi has been heavily scrutinized for having never won anything for his country till 2021. Many fans saw Messi winning trophy after trophy with his club teams, but never able to have that same success for his home country. This was despite Messi winning best player awards in tournaments, and carrying his teams to three Finals with players lesser than he was used to. Losing the 2016 Copa America was the worst, as he missed an opening penalty in a shootout. The Argentinian media once again blamed Messi to a point he could no longer take, and he retired from international play. Messi came out of retirement to lead a struggling team back into the 2018 World Cup after it looked like the team wasn’t going to make it without him. He finally grabbed his first international trophy in 2021 with four goals and five assists in the tournament. After winning, many of his teammates said they were more happy for Messi winning than themselves, knowing what he had gone through and how badly he wanted to win for his country. It was such a big mark on Messi’s career, his teammates saw that and wanted to go out and play better for him. They love their leader, and it has helped them play harder.
4. The Most Complete Argentinian Side in a While
The teams were not the most talented in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups but still good enough to make it to the quarterfinals. Messi took over in 2014 as the team’s captain, and led the team on a remarkable run. That roster had a lot of issues, from a weak back four, no connecting pieces in the midfield, and talented forwards that could not rise to the occasion. Messi dragged that team to the World Cup Final, and in 2018 it was pretty much the same team, but slower and older. Without Messi, the team nearly didn’t make the World Cup, but once again, Messi dragged them to a penalty shootout loss in the Round of 16. 2022 is an entirely different story, with a group of young talented players who have experience in the top clubs in Europe. The team has a solid midfield headlined by Rodrigo De Paul, Giovani Lo Celso, and Leandro Paredes. The defense now includes Cristian Romero and goalie Emiliano Martínez, and young forwards in Lautaro Martínez and Paulo Dybala. This is easily one of the best Argentinian teams in a while and well-deserving of its ranking by FIFA.
5. Front Runner in the Group
Group C has Argentina matched against Mexico, Poland, and Saudi Arabia, starting with their first game against Saudi Arabia. Mexico is the highest-ranked opponent by FIFA at 12, but they are a team that is falling, ranked ninth in March. The team does have some star players, but Argentina has started to reach a new level in the last year. Poland is very star-heavy, around one of the best strikers in the world, Robert Lewandowski, but the team has seen little World Cup success. Saudi Arabia is one of the lowest-ranked teams in the World Cup, at 53, and should pose few issues for a World Cup favorite.