A Brief Team History
World Cup titles: 2 (1978, 1986)
The Argentineans got off to a good start in their World Cup endeavors, placing second at the first ever tournament held in Uruguay in 1930. Goals from Carlos Peucelle and Guillermo Stabile were not enough to defeat the hosts, Uruguay, as Argentina lost in the final by a score of 4-2. Then things took an interesting turn for the worse.
Argentina lost early in 1934 and subsequently didn’t participate in 1938, 1950, or 1954. They braced for 1958 with more optimism; however, they finished dead last in their group, and left Sweden feeling utterly disappointed.
Things weren’t much better in Chile in 1962, as Argentina finished third in their group. Yet another early elimination for the team that had placed second in the very first World Cup.
Things would get better in 1966, as they finished second in their group behind West Germany. Yet, they lost in the quarterfinals to the hosts, and eventual champs, England, by a score of 1-0 in Wembley Stadium in front of over 90,000 people with a strong bias for the home team.
By 1970, it was back to the old story of not qualifying. In 1974, they had another idea, placing second in their group behind Poland. However, they lost in their second-round group, finishing last behind East Germany.
During these years, win or lose, Argentina fielded teams that showcased players that were individually a little better than others, such as Onega from the 1960s. They may not have been doing well in World Cups, but they had a certain craft about their touch with a little swagger to the way they dribbled—a hint of things to come. They were the type of players that, right away, caught your eye. But considering their somewhat unstable on-again, off-again relationship with the World Cup, there was something holding them back.
As hosts, 1978 would be Argentina’s year. They started things out by finishing second in their group behind Italy. In the second round, things were broken up into Groups A and B. There were concerns, particularly from Brazilian constituents, that Argentina—who, at the time, was under a strict dictatorship—rigged the all-important match with Peru. Some assert the referees were manipulated; others claim the Peruvian players were approached with bribes and threats beforehand; while still others insist both the referees and Peruvian players were instructed to give the game over to the hosts. The game ended in a 6-0 victory for Argentina as Kempes led the charge with two. Within the group, Argentina tied Brazil. Based on points and goal differential, Argentina advanced to the championship while Brazil was forced to play for the consolation. So when Argentina defeated the Netherlands for the final, many speculated it wasn’t the fairest of tournaments.
Making it to the second round in 1982, Argentina was quickly eliminated in Group C with defeats from superpowers Italy and Brazil. Argentina’s new star, Diego Maradona (who nearly made the 1978 squad), would have to wait four more years for his shot at glory.
By 1986, led by arguably the greatest player of all time, Maradona, Argentina had to their advantage a new era of refereeing. FIFA had listened to the calls for change at the last World Cup. There were many complaints about the game getting out of control with unnecessary rough play, leaving creative types like Maradona on the ground more often than they’d like to be. Thanks to many factors, including a well-rounded Argentinean side, along with the brilliance of Maradona and the hand of Maradona, Argentina would win the championship in stylish form, making it their second title. In 1990, Argentina, led by Maradona, received the runner-up award, losing to West Germany.
Over the course of 16 years, the tournaments of 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, and 2010 featured various talented players for their respective time, including Zanetti, Ortega, Veron, Crespo, Tevez, Riquelme, and Messi, and each was a decent showing for the two-time champs, yet Argentina failed to lift the trophy.
In 1994, they lost in the second round to Romania. In 1998, they lost in the quarterfinals to the Netherlands. The 2002 World Cup wasn’t very good for Argentina as they failed to get out of their group. At Germany in 2006, they lost to Germany in the quarterfinals. Yet again in South Africa in 2010, they lost to Germany in the quarterfinals.
In 2014, led by Messi and a talented group of players fit for a championship, Argentina made the finals, with a good showing against Germany, but it wasn’t enough. As for Russia 2018, seeing that it could likely be Messi’s last, the people of Argentina are looking forward to a third championship.