Country facts:

Flag:
Area: 2,736,690 sq km
Population: 39,144,753
Languages: Spanish
Currency: Argentina peso (ARS)
Climate: mostly temperate; arid in southeast; subantarctic in southwest

Argentina

Argentina soccer information

A national team that in historical terms has not yet come out from under the shadow of Diego Maradona, Argentina have been something of an equipo de los sueños in the making, though they did not prove that at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan?. The side had a lot of smart money on it after breezing through qualifying with a remarkable record -- they were 12 points ahead of their nearest challenger Ecuador, suffering only one defeat in 18 rugged South American Zone matches.

But, a draw that pitted them in the opening group against old-foes England, Nigeria and Sweden was cruel. For the millions of Argentina supporters that wept as the team fell meekly at the first hurdle, the limp performance by the albiceleste was even crueller. They scored a meagre two goals, gave up two and settled for four points and a ticket home. The lack of an on-the-pitch leader and the odd inability to settle on one international level striker were the central causes of failure, though a general unease seemed to permeate the team from the start.
By the time Germany '06 roles around it will have been two decades since Argentina's Maradona-led triumph at Mexico '86. At that point, having won two out of three FIFA World Cups, Argentina felt as though it was only a matter of time until they established their pre-eminence in the sport on a par equal their neighbours Brazil.

A run to the final at Italy '90 almost made it three out of four - a feat only ever accomplished by the Brazilians between 1958 and 1970 - but Germany were the deserved victor in that case. Maradona was a figure in decline at that point, a sentiment that was settled for most outside of Argentina when the legend failed a drugs test at USA '94. The team crashed out with him, and for better or worse, the post-Maradona era began.

A satisfactory France '98 saw both the jubilation of the second round victory over England and also the heartbreak of Dennis Bergkamp's late wonder goal that knocked the albiceleste out in the last eight. It was a competent side, but one that never recaptured the spirit or momentum of the side heading into Korea/Japan '02.

After that disappointment, the Argentina Football Association bravely stuck with their much-criticized coach Marcelo Bielsa and entrusted him with the task of qualifying for Germany 2006. Their decision was subsequently vindicated, as by September 2004, when the coach surprisingly quit his position, Argentina were riding high in the FIFA World Cup? qualifiers and had just followed up a runners-up spot in the Copa América with the country?s first ever football gold at the Athens Olympics.

The batten has now been passed to José Pekerman, who has been tasked with taking the Albiceleste the rest of the way to Germany 2006 and making amends for the team?s poor showing the last time they graced the world stage.

Founded 1893
Affiliated 1912
WC participations 13 (1930, 1934, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002)
WC honours 2-time FIFA World Cup winners (1978, 1986), 2-time FIFA World Cup runners-up (1930, 1990).
Continental Titles Copa America 14 times (1921, 1925, 1927, 1927, 1937, 1941, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1991, 1993), Pan American Cup 6 times (1951, 1955, 1959, 1971, 1995, 2003)