Argentina Profile

Major Honours World Cup (2), Copa America (15), Confederations Cup (1)
Year Founded 1901

As two-time World Cup winners, the Albiceleste are one of the greatest national teams in soccer. Here, Planet Sport profiles the team, their successes and their struggles.

Consistently ranked among the top 10 teams in the world, the Argentina national side is one of six sides to have won at least two World Cup titles.

Nicknamed La Albiceleste (The White and Sky Blues), the Argentines have played in five World Cup finals, won 15 Copa America titles, one Confederations Cup, and the U-23 team won gold at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

In addition to the team's success, Argentinian soccer is well-known through its superstars, most notably the late Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi.

Lionel Messi celebrates a crucial win at the 2018 World Cup in Russia

Argentina have a massive rivalry with Brazil and, to a lesser extent, Uruguay. Throughout the years, they have also had memorable clashes with England and Germany.

The Argentina national team played their first-ever match in 1901, a 3-2 away win over Uruguay. Their first official match came a year later and was another win over Uruguay. They exclusively played matches against other South American teams until 1928.

They won four Lipton Cups and four Newton Cups between 1906 and 1911 before adding three more Lipton Cups between 1913 and 1916. They prevailed in the 1921 South American Championships as hosts and won the title again on home soil in 1925 before winning it in Peru in 1927.

Argentina left the continent for the first time in 1928 to participate in the Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, Netherlands. They won three group games to reach the final before falling to Uruguay 2-1 and earning a silver medal.

They have played in 17 of the 21 World Cups, qualifying for all the tournaments except for the 1970 edition.

Early World Cup appearances

Argentina didn't have to travel far for the inaugural FIFA World Cup as neighbours Uruguay were the hosts in 1930. They swept through the group stage with 1-0, 6-3 and 3-1 wins against France, Mexico and Chile, respectively.

Argentina, 1966 World Cup, Villa Park

In the semi-finals, they beat the United States 6-1 but fell to Uruguay 4-2 in the final. Guillermo Stabile scored eight of Argentina's 18 goals in the first World Cup, including one hat-trick and a pair of braces.

The 1934 World Cup in Italy didn't have a group stage and started at the round of 16. Argentina fell to Sweden 3-2 and swiftly returned home.

Argentina withdrew from the 1938 World Cup in France in protest at a second straight tournament in Europe.

After World War II, Argentina qualified for the 1950 World Cup in Brazil but withdrew along with Ecuador and Peru because of a dispute with the Brazilian Football Confederation. They also withdrew from the 1954 tournament on political grounds.

Return to the World Cup

After a 24-year absence, Argentina returned to the World Cup in 1958 with Stabile as manager. He had led Argentina to seven South American Championships between 1937 and 1957, but didn't have success in Sweden at the 1958 World Cup.

Argentina were knocked out in the group stage after suffering a 6-1 loss to Czechoslovakia.

The 1962 World Cup in Chile didn't go much better with a 1-0 win over Bulgaria, a 0-0 draw against Hungary and a 3-1 defeat to England. This meant that for the second straight World Cup, Argentina failed to make the knockout round.

They did get past the group stage of the 1966 World Cup in England, but only just. Two group stage wins, with three goals by Luis Artime, led to optimism, but Argentina fell 1-0 in the quarter-finals to England at Wembley.

Argentina failed to qualify for the 1970 World Cup, the first and only time they have entered a team in the qualification stages that failed to advance. They drew 2-2 in the final qualifying game against Peru, who advanced in their place.

They made amends by qualifying for the 1974 World Cup with two decisive wins over Bolivia and Paraguay. The trip to Germany didn't go well though, with a 3-2 loss to Poland, a 4-0 loss to the Netherlands and a 2-1 defeat to bitter rivals Brazil. Their only win in six games was a 4-1 victory against Haiti.

1978 World Cup win

Even though manager Cesar Luis Menotti didn't select 17-year-old Diego Maradona, success finally came in 1978 as the Argentines hosted the World Cup.

Argentina, 1978 World Cup, Buenos Aires, Daniel Passarella

They beat Hungary and France in the group stage before falling to Italy but still advancing. In the second round they drew 0-0 against Brazil, beat Poland 2-0 and overcame Peru 6-0 to progress to the final.

Mario Kempes then had his third multi-goal game of the tournament as Argentina beat the Netherlands 3-1 after extra time to lift the cup for the first time.

Maradona finally made his World Cup debut in Spain in 1982 but Argentina lost their first game 1-0 to Belgium. Maradona scored two goals in the 4-1 win over Hungary and Argentina advanced with a 2-0 win over El Salvador. Losses to Italy (2-1) and Brazil (3-1) in Barcelona ended Argentina's tournament in the second group stage.

Maradona leads Argentina to 1986 World Cup

The 1986 World Cup in Mexico belonged to Maradona and Argentina, who were coached by Carlos Bilardo. Jorge Valdano scored twice in a 3-1 win over South Korea, Maradona scored in the 1-1 draw against Italy and Valdano scored again in a 2-0 win over Bulgaria.

Argentina beat Uruguay 1-0 in the round of 16, setting the stage for a quarter-final showdown with England at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

The first goal of the game became infamously known as 'The Hand of God' goal as the officials missed Maradona's hand making contact with the ball before it beat England keeper Peter Shilton.

There was no controversy about his second strike though, which is often referred to as 'The Goal of the Century'. Maradona beat nearly the entire England team with his run from midfield before slotting the ball past Shilton for a 2-0 lead. Argentina went on to win the game 2-1, with Gary Lineker scoring late on for England.

Maradona scored two more goals in a 2-0 semi-final win over Belgium, increasing his tournament tally to five. In the final against West Germany, Jose Luis Brown and Valdano built a 2-0 lead.

West Germany clawed one back before Jorge Burruchaga scored the game-clincher in the 83rd minute. To go with Argentina's cup win, Maradona lifted the Golden Ball.

Third World Cup final in four tournaments

Argentina were upset by Cameroon 1-0 in the opener of the 1990 World Cup in Italy but bounced back to advance from the group stage. They beat rivals Brazil 1-0 in the round of 16 and survived against Yugoslavia in a penalty shootout in the quarter-finals.

Argentina, 1998 World Cup, St. Etienne, Javier Zanetti

Claudio Caniggia scored to tie the semi-final game against hosts Italy and Maradona converted the final penalty kick in a 4-3 shootout win. But Argentina ran out of gas in the final, suffering a 1-0 loss to West Germany in a rematch of the 1986 showpiece.

Consistent World Cup runs but no success

Maradona returned four years later but the 1994 World Cup in the United States didn't go well.

Gabriel Batistuta netted a hat-trick and Maradona scored in a 4-0 win over Greece, but Argentina lost 2-0 to Bulgaria in the final group game. In the round of 16, they were upset 3-2 by Romania and were sent packing.

Batistuta scored another hat-trick at the 1998 World Cup in France as Argentina beat Jamaica 5-0. They didn't concede a goal in the group stage and survived a penalty shootout against England in the round of 16 after a 2-2 draw.

The tournament ended for the Argentines in the quarter-finals though, with a 2-1 defeat to the Netherlands.

Argentina were eliminated from the group stage in the 2002 World Cup with a 1-0 loss to England and a 1-1 draw against Sweden.

Lionel Messi and new generation

Four years later, Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez made their World Cup debuts in Germany and both scored in a 6-0 win over Serbia.

Argentina beat Mexico in the round of 16 but lost in a penalty shootout to Germany in the quarter-finals. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa also ended in the quarter-finals against Germany, this time with a 4-0 defeat.

Diego Maradona, Argentina, 2008

Argentina enjoyed a strong run at the 2014 World Cup in neighbouring Brazil. Messi tallied four goals in the group stage with at least one goal in each of the three wins.

After a 1-0 round-of-16 victory over Switzerland, Argentina beat Belgium 1-0 courtesy of Gonzalo Higuain's fifth career World Cup goal. Sergio Romero saved two penalties as Argentina won a semi-final shootout against the Netherlands after a 0-0 draw.

The next game marked the third meeting against Germany in a World Cup final. Argentina fell 1-0 as Germany scored the only goal of the game in the 113th minute.

The 2018 World Cup in Russia didn't go well from the start as Argentina drew 1-1 against Iceland and lost 3-0 against Croatia.

Messi scored in a 2-1 win over Nigeria to assure qualification to the knockout round, but Argentina were sent packing by France with a 4-3 defeat in the round of 16.

Rivalry with Brazil

The biggest rivalry for the Argentina national team comes from Brazil. The teams have met over 100 times since their first encounter in 1914.

The two sides first met at a World Cup in 1974, with Brazil winning 2-1. Argentina advanced to the final at Brazil's expense in the 1978 World Cup with a 0-0 draw being enough in light of other second group stage results.

Brazil beat Argentina 3-1 in 1982, while Argentina shut out their rivals 1-0 in 1990 in the round of 16.

Argentina had never lost to Brazil in a South America/Copa America Championship final until 2004. They triumphed over their neighbours in eight championship games to lift the trophy on each occasion.

All this changed in 2004 and Brazil beat Argentina again in the 2005 Confederations Cup final and the 2007 Copa America final too.

However, Argentina gained a measure of revenge at the Copa America in 2021, beating hosts Brazil 1-0 in the final.

Angel Di Maria scored the only goal of the game to hand Lionel Messi his first major honour with Argentina.

It also ended a 28-year trophy drought for the country. 

Argentina's icons

The most prolific goalscorer in Argentina's history is Messi, who has scored 76 goals in 151 games at an average of 0.5 goals per game.

Gabriel Batistuta scored 54 goals in 77 games between 1991 and 2002, while Sergio Aguero has 41 goals in 101 games. Hernan Crespo notched 35 times in 64 games and Diego Maradona found the net 34 times in his 91 appearances.

Defender Javier Mascherano holds the record for most appearances for Argentina, with 147 caps between 2003 and 2018. He surpassed the mark set by defender Javier Zanetti (143) between 1994 and 2011.

Maradona captained the Argentina team to the 1986 World Cup and Daniel Passarella captained the 1978 champions.

Guillermo Stabile holds the team record for most goals at a single World Cup with eight in 1930, and Batistuta leads the team with the most career World Cup goals with 10. He also has the most Copa America goals with 13, a mark he now shares with Messi.

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