What are Argentina’s chances of winning the 2022 FIFA World Cup?
As one of just eight nations to have ever tasted FIFA World Cup glory, Argentina will attend the 2022 edition harbouring big title ambitions. The South American nation is one of the leading contenders for the honours this year.
Will their squad, which looks to be a fine blend of toughness and flair, of youth and experience, be able to go all the way? Argentina are seeking their first World Cup title since 1986.
Messi’s international swansong?
It’s likely that their golden era of star players like Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria will be over on the World Cup stage following this. Arguably one of the finest players to have ever stepped onto a football pitch, Messi will go to this year’s World Cup at 35 years of age.
Of course, it’s not out of the question that he will be still playing in four years. But at the top international level, that’s hard to see.
For a player who has had a sparkling career at the club level, racking up UEFA Champions League titles, La Liga titles with Barcelona, a stack of Copa del Rey trophies and more, it hasn’t quite happened for Messi on the international stage.
Messi, who has won the Ballon d’Or seven times, remarkably only claimed his first major international title with Argentina last year. That was with a victory over their arch-rivals Brazil in the Copa América Final.
The victory there for Argentina, who are the most successful nation in the history of the Copa América with 15 titles, was made that much sweeter as it was delivered at the pantheon of Brazilian football, the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro.
The international title came 17 years after Messi had made his full international debut.
Can Messi be the man?
Strangely, World Cup performances from Messi haven’t been the highlight of his career at all. For the greatest player on the greatest stage of all, his World Cup record is largely forgettable. Maybe it has been because so much pressure has been heaped on him.
Maybe it was that no head coach of Argentina really figured out how to fit him into a system. Perhaps it has been that during Messi’s international career, that those around him have, by and large, not been good enough.
Whatever the reasons are, Messi’s record in World Cup appearances is six goals from nineteen appearances. Notably, four of those six World Cup goals happened at Brazil 2014. Argentina finished as runner-up to Germany in a tense World Cup Final that year, the match being settled in extra time.
But it showed that if Messi can get himself involved, then Argentina can go far. That was the first time since losing to Germany at Italia ‘90 that the Albiceleste had finished in the top four at a FIFA World Cup.
Messi’s experience and patience aren’t enough though. They need Messi to be the man with the ball at his feet at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. They need his contribution.
Top 5 all-time leading goalscorers for Argentina
- Lionel Messi 86
- Gabriel Batistuta 56
- Sergio Aguero 41
- Hernán Crespo 35
- Diego Maradona 34
Continental success a springboard for more?
Going back to that Copa América victory last year for Argentina, it may serve as a huge positive for them. It was the first time that they had won either a Copa América or World Cup title since 1993. There has to have been immense relief at finally being able to celebrate a major title, with or without Messi.
It will have confirmed to the Argentinean players that they can win. That there is a winning mentality in there that they can tap into.
In 2022 World Cup betting odds, Argentina are towards the head of the market with the rest of a few of the usual protagonists France, England, Germany and Spain. They are all behind current outright favourites Brazil.
So the big question is can Argentina pull themselves out of their slump and claim their third FIFA World Cup title?
Looking back at where Argentina’s title wins happened, they were at tournaments hosted outside of Europe. Argentina’s 1978 World Cup win was on home turf. They then earned the crown for a second time when they triumphed at Mexico ‘86.
During that campaign, the legendary Diego Maradona scored “the goal of the century” against England in the quarter-finals. It was also the same match in which he scored the infamous “Hand of God goal”.
Latest World Cup odds
Argentina’s current squad
Lionel Scaloni took over as Argentina’s head coach in August 2018. Having had no previous managerial experience anywhere, not even at club level, it was a surprise move by Argentina. He took over from Jorge Sampaoli who had been in charge of their 2018 World Cup campaign.
Although Argentina did make it to the Round of 16 in 2018, they were eliminated there by France. That Argentina squad for Russia 2018, was arguably nowhere near as good as the current one that they have.
Not even Lionel Messi, who only scored once at the last World Cup, could lift a very poor Argentinian team then. But there may be a silver lining because the Albiceleste have got a lot better since handing the reins to Scaloni, a younger man with fresher ideas.
Scaloni had been part of Sampaoli’s coaching staff with Argentina. When Sampaoli was sacked, Scaloni was handed the reigns as a caretaker. After taking Argentina to third place at the 2019 Copa América, he was given a chance at doing the job full time.
Their faith was rewarded last year as Scaloni got Argentina their first Copa América title since 1993. In the preceding six editions of the Copa América, Argentina had finished as runners-up four times, along with a third-place finish and a quarter-final exit.
Scaloni has installed a competitive edge in Argentina, again circling back to find a way to tap into a winning mentality. That could make all the difference to Argentina’s chances at the 2022 World Cup.
In June this year, Argentina won the 2022 Finalissima at Wembley Stadium in London. That was an intercontinental clash between South American champions Argentina, and European Champions Italy. The Albiceleste comfortably won it 3-0.
Argentina’s Qualification campaign
There was no wobble whatsoever for Argentina during their qualification campaign for the 2022 World Cup. They remain undefeated, earning a W11 D6 record in their CONMEBOL campaign, finishing second to Brazil.
Argentina do have one outstanding re-arranged FIFA World Cup qualification match to play against Brazil in September this year. That will make no difference to the final standings of the qualification group from CONMEBOL.
Since the start of last year’s Copa América in mid-June, Argentina have gone undefeated in a run of 19 matches. They won all but four of those fixtures. Argentina also kept fourteen clean sheets in those 19 internationals.
In six matches played in 2022, they have scored at least two goals in four of the fixtures. They look balanced, and perhaps most notably of all, a young side that are full of energy.
Most Capped Players for Argentina
- 162 Lionel Messi
- 147 Javier Mascherano
- 145 Javier Zanetti
- 122 Angel Di Maria
- 115 Roberto Ayala
- 104 Diego Simeone
- 101 Sergio Aguero
- 97 Oscar Ruggeri
- 96 Sergio Romero
- 91 Diego Maradona
- 91 Nicolas Otamendi
Argentina not the Albiceleste of old
The stereotype of Argentina has always been a tough, slow and pragmatic team happy to grind out 1-0 wins in tournaments. But under Scaloni they have taken on more of a modern approach. Argentina are happy to use width in their attack and press opposition higher up the pitch.
They are creative and perhaps most importantly of all, they are not a one-man team. This current setup isn’t shoe-horning Lionel Messi into a side of players that don’t complement his style. He fits naturally. He looks to be settled and happy and involved.
During their World Cup qualification campaign, Lautaro Martinez and Lionel Messi were joint top scorers for Argentina. In Martinez, they have someone who can share the goal-scoring load.
Others like Julian Alvarez, Juan Foyth, Emiliano Buendia, and Exequiel Palacios are still cutting their teeth on the international stage, but promise a big future for Argentina. In their squad for the Finalissimo against Italy, Argentina had only four players over the age of 30.
Two of those were Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria, both important players for their country still. More experienced players like Nicolas Otamendi and Leandro Parades are going to be leaned on at the 2022 World Cup to knit together that blend of youth and experience.
World Cup History of Argentina
For the 2022 World Cup, Argentina have been drawn in Group C alongside Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland. The Albiceleste are favourites to top their section and it does appear to be a decent draw for them. It’s competitive, but not overwhelming.
They will face different tests in the group, expecting to dominate possession and chances against Saudi Arabia in their opener. They then will have to deal with the quicker, more enterprising Mexico in their second group stage match. To close out, Argentina will face the more direct tactics of Poland and their goal-scoring threat of Robert Lewandowski.
Argentina’s 2022 World Cup matches
- 22nd November v Saudi Arabia
- 26th November v Mexico
- 30th November v Poland
Can Argentina pull it together?
This may be the final World Cup appearances for a handful of Argentina’s best. Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria and Nicolas Otamendi are not likely to be back in the famous blue and white shirts at the 2026 World Cup.
They won’t be looking beyond that, however. There is a job in front of them starting in November in Qatar. It’s one that they are increasingly looking like they can handle as well.