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Last World Cup: Quarter-finals
Nickname: La Albiceleste
Coach: Alejandro Sabella
Star man: Lionel Messi
Tournament best: Winners 1978, 1986

Barcelona superstar Messi will turn 27 during next summer's tournament and this looks his best chance to add major international glory to his glittering club successes. Plenty of other attacking options are also available to coach Sabella, but the defence might be a weak link against top-class opposition.

Strengths: No finalist created more of their goals from the centre of the pitch than Argentina, who carved out over three quarters of their goals without resorting to the wings. They liked to hit teams early, with only two finalists scoring more of their goals in the first half, and once ahead tended to stay there: only four of their 31 fellow qualifiers retained a greater share of points from winning positions.

Weaknesses: Despite topping their qualifying group, Argentina surprisingly only managed to keep a clean sheet in a quarter of their matches: a smaller proportion than any other Brazil-bound team. Going forward they rarely struck from headers or set pieces, which in addition to their lack of wing play could leave them without sufficient versatility to unlock more stubborn defences and unhealthily dependent on Lionel Messi's inventiveness.

Prospects: The central focus of the Argentine attack should serve them well in Group F against three teams who all conceded an unusually high proportion of goals from central positions. Nigeria's dead ball expertise and Iran's industry down the right could catch them by surprise, but most people will be backing them heavily to progress given that their three opponents have a lower average FIFA Ranking than any other nation's.