World Cup 2018: High hopes for Argentina after 2014 finals appearance

World Today

FBL-WC-2018-ARG-TRAININGArgentina’s forward Lionel Messi (R) takes part in a training session of Argentina’s national football team at the FC Barcelona ‘Joan Gamper’ sports centre in Sant Joan Despi, near Barcelona, on June 1, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE)

Argentina is one of many teams fighting up an uphill battle to take home the World Cup trophy. In 2014, the team advanced to the quarter finals in Brazil, but has had a mixed record since.

CGTN’s Joel Richards takes a look at their chances.

Supporters gave the Argentina national team a rousing send-off before the players left for the World Cup in Russia. After reaching the final in 2014, but ultimately losing to Germany, Argentina has strong support and high expectations.

The team was far from convincing in the build up to this year’s tournament. The team left it to the very last match to guarantee their place. During qualification, Argentina tried three different coaches who used a number of different players.

In the end, the team traveling to Russia will feature some of the same faces who reached the final in Brazil four years ago.

Coach Jorge Sampaoli promises attacking football, and is confident of what the team can achieve.

“I am very excited to coach and accompany these players. I am very optimistic, and every time I see them in training, the dream grows.”

Captain Lionel Messi is leading a team that not only reached the final of the World Cup in Brazil, but also reached two Copa America finals. Yet, Argentina lost all three finals, upping the pressure to deliver in Russia.

Argentina won its first World Cup in 1978. Their second came in 1986 under Captain Diego Maradona.

Diego Maradona 1986 World Cup Trophy

Argentine Captain Diego Maradona kisses the World Cup Trophy after a 3-2 victory against West Germany on June 29, 1986. (1995-2018 Visual China)

Goalkeeper Nery Pumpido told CGTN that having the world’s best player is not enough in itself.

“One player alone cannot win the World Cup,” he explained. “Maradona played four World Cups, he won only one. Messi has played three World Cups, and has not won one. With the two best players in the world – Maradona and Messi – they have played seven World Cups, but won only one, which was because of the team.”

Pumpido is cautious about Argentina’s chances, saying that maybe Brazil and Germany are stronger.

“To reach them, we have to work hard in the month that remains, get strong as a team. And I hope they talk a lot as a group. The group is very important.”

Messi and his team start their quest to win the World Cup on June 16th against Iceland.