History of the Argentina national football team

The first match ever recorded by an Argentine side was played on May 16, 1901, v. Uruguay, although the one played by Argentina on July 20, 1902, v. Uruguay is considered its first official match ever.,[1] which Argentina defeated by 6-0.

Since its establishment, the Argentina national team has appeared in five FIFA World Cup finals, including the first final in 1930, 1978 (when the team won its first World Cup) beating the Netherlands), the 1986 (winning its second World Cup after defeating West Germany), 1990 and 2014.

Argentina has been very successful in the Copa América, winning it 14 times and also winning the 'extra' South American Championships in 1941, 1945 and 1946. The team also won the FIFA Confederations Cup and the Kirin Cup, both in 1992, and the Argentine olympic team won the Olympics football tournaments in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.[2]


Beginning and first titles

Argentine team before playing its first official match ever, v. Uruguay, on July 27, 1902. This is also the first photo recorded of a national team.

Although the first match ever recorded by an Argentine side was played on May 16, 1901, v. Uruguay. Nevertheless, this is not considered an official game due to the match not being organized by Uruguay's football association but by Albion FC in its home field, "Paso del Molino". The Uruguayan side had 9 players from that club and the rest from Nacional.[3] Argentina won the match by 3-2.

The first official game played by Argentina was held in the same venue, on July 20, 1902, v. Uruguay.[1] Argentina defeated Uruguay by 6-0. The line-up was: José Buruca Laforia (Barracas A.C.), William Leslie (Quilmes), Walter Buchanan (Alumni), Eduardo Patricio Duggan (Belgrano A.C.), Carlos J. Buchanan (Alumni), Ernesto Brown (Alumni), Edward O. Morgan (Quilmes), Juan José Moore (cap.) (Alumni), Juan O. Anderson (Lomas A.C.), Carlos Edgar Dickinson (Belgrano A.C.), Jorge Brown (Alumni). The goals were scored by Dickinson, Arímalo, Morgan, Carve Urioste, Anderson and J. Brown.n Brown (86').[4]

An Argentina line-up of 1908, using the light blue and white jersey.

During its first years of existence, the national team played only friendly matches until 1905, when the first edition of Lipton Cup was held. It was a cup organized by both Argentine and Uruguayan Football Associations, with its last edition being contested in 1992. The first official title won by Argentina was the 1906 Copa Lipton, defeating Uruguay 2-0 in Montevideo.[5] That same year Argentina also played the Newton Cup, another competition organized by both associations, obtaining the trophy after defeating Uruguay 2-1 in Buenos Aires.

In the following years, matches played by the Argentine side were against South American teams only. The reasons varied from the long time the trips took to another countries by then to World War I.[6]

Argentina would win four consecutive Newton Cups from 1907 to 1911,[7] and four Lipton Cups from 1906 to 1909. After some Uruguayan victories, Argentina won the 1913, 1915 and 1916 Lipton and 1916 Newton Cup trophies.

In 1921 Argentina won its first South American Championship.

In 1916 Argentina contested the first tournament organized by CONMEBOL, the South American Championship (current Copa América) hosted in Buenos Aires and Avellaneda and won by Uruguay. The host plus Brazil, Chile and Uruguay were the only teams contesting the inaugural competition. During that tournament Argentina played three matches, defeating Chile 6-0 and drawing Brazil and Uruguay, who became champions on goal difference. The line-up at the final was: Isola, Díaz, Reyes, Martínez, Olazar, Badaracco, Heissinger, Ohaco, H.Hayes, E.Hayes and Perinetti.[8]

Argentina won its first South American championship in 1921, also held in Buenos Aires. The squad won all the games disputed, defeating Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay totalling 6 points with no goals received. Notable players of that team were goalkeeper Américo Tesoriere and striker Pedro Calomino. Julio Libonatti was also tournament's top scorer.[9]

The Olympic goal

Onzari's olympic goal against Uruguay in 1924.

In 1924, Argentina played a friendly match against Uruguay at Sportivo Barracas' stadium. When only 15 minutes had been played, winger Cesáreo Onzari scored from a corner kick, with no other player touching the ball before scoring. Due to the fact that Uruguay was the Olympic champion, this play was called "Gol Olímpico". This denomination still remains.[10]

The goal stood since FIFA had previously regulated goals scored directly from the corner kick, as Onzari did during that match. According to La Nación newspaper, 52.000 fans attended the game, which was won by Argentina 2-1, where the Uruguayan team left the field with only 4 minutes to play. Argentine players later complained about the rough play of the Uruguayan team during the match, while their rivals also complained about the aggressiveness of local spectators, who threw bottles at them at the end of the match.[11]

In 1925, the South American championship was hosted by third time in Argentina, and the Albicelest won its 2nd. title. The team played four matches and remained unbeaten once more, defeating Paraguay and Brazil twice each. A highmark was the 4-1 victory against classic rival Brazil.

Argentina won another consecutive title in 1927 obtaining the South American championship held in Perú. The team made a great campaign finishing unbeaten with 3 wins over 3 games played. The national squad achieved a large victory over Bolivia (7-1), then beating Uruguay by 3-2 and the local team by 5-1 in the last match of the tournament. It was the 3rd South American title for the Argentine national team.

1928 Summer Olympics

The team that reached the final of the 1928 Summer Olympics.

In 1928 Argentina went to Amsterdam to play the 1928 Summer Olympics, which was the first international tournament played by the national team in its history. The football squad reached the final after trashing the USA 11-2, Belgium 6-3 and Egypt 6-0. The final saw Argentina defeated by Uruguay 2-1, thus winning the silver medal.

1930 World Cup

The Argentina squad that played the 1930 World Cup match vs. Mexico.

In 1929 Argentina hosted a new edition of the South American championship, winning its second consecutive title. Argentina finished unbeaten once more, defeating all its rivals in the group: Perú (3-0), Paraguay (4-1) and Uruguay in the last match played in the Estadio Gasómetro of Buenos Aires. Most of players that took part of the team would play for Argentina in the first World Cup organized by FIFA one year later.

Argentina was one of the 13 national teams attending to the inaugural FIFA World Cup hosted by Uruguay.

In the inaugural match of the World Cup, Argentina defeated France 1-0. The national team then beat Mexico 6-3 and finished its run in the first stage by defeating Chile 3-1. Argentina qualified to the semi-finals where the squad widely beat the United States 6-1. On July 30, Argentina played its first World Cup final against Uruguay, but lost 4-2.

1934–54: A long absence

Argentina played only one game at the next World Cup in Italy in 1934. The tournament format was a knockout tournament, and Argentina lost its only match 3–2 to Sweden. Argentina would not participate in the 1938 World Cup in France, the last before World War II. The first World Cup after the War was the 1950 World Cup held in Brazil, but Argentina did not enter the competition due to a conflict with the Brazilian Association. For the 1954 World Cup held in Switzerland, Argentina refused to participate.

In 1951, Argentina played England for the first time and were defeated 2-1 at Wembley Stadium. The second leg was played in Buenos Aires on 14 June 1953. Argentina won 3–1, and the match caused great repercussions in Argentina.[12]

From Los Carasucias to the 1958 disaster

Los Carasucias: Corbatta, Maschio, Angelillo, Sívori and Cruz.

Although Argentina did not contest any World Cups from 1934 to 1954, the team won the 1937, 1941, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1955 and 1957 South American championships, all squads coached by Guillermo Stábile.

The 1957 squad is probably the most remembered team of those years because of its skilled players and exquisite style of playing showed on the field. Argentina trashed Colombia (8–2), Ecuador (3–0), Uruguay (4–0), Chile (6–2) and Brazil (3–0). The team was defeated by Peru in the last game but won the tournament due to finishing first in its gorup. The attacking line, formed by Oreste Corbatta, Humberto Maschio. Antonio Angelillo, Omar Sívori and Osvaldo Cruz, was widely praised by then, being still remembered by the media and football fans.[13] Maschio was also the topscorer with 9 goals.

Argentina returned to a World Cup competition after 24 years, more precisely to the 1958 held in Sweden. The team suffered the absence of Maschio, Angelillo and Sívori (playing in the Italian first division but not called by Stábile for the tournament[14]), who had made outstanding performances in Lima one year before. Although the squad was formed with valued players, the lack of experience facing European squads was evidenced once the tournament finished. Argentina lost to West Germany 3-1 in the first game, though they came back to defeat Northern Ireland in the second match. Argentina was finally thrashed by Czechoslovakia by 6-1, one of the worst defeats of a national team in a World Cup and being eliminated from the competition. The poor performance was called "El desastre de Suecia" (The Sweden disaster). After the team arrived in Buenos Aires, 10,000 people were expecting in the Ezeiza International Airport to insult them.[15]


After the Sweden disaster Argentina returned to official competitions in 195, winning a new edition of the Copa América, its 12th title. The team thrashed Chile 6–1 at the debut, then beat Bolivia 2–0, Perú and Paraguay by 3–1, Uruguay 4–1 and finished with an 1–1 draw against Brazil. Argentina remained unbeaten, winning 5 of 6 games played. The team was coached by a triumvirate composed by Victorio Spinetto, José Della Torre and José Barreiro, replacing Guillermo Stábile after his 19-year tenure in the national team. Argentina would not win a Copa América until 1991 Copa América, when the team coached by Alfio Basile obtained the trophy in Chile.

In 1959, José Manuel Moreno became Argentina coach, although he did not spend much time with the team. Under his coaching Argentina disputed the Southamerican championship in Ecuador, where the squad defeated Paraguay 4–2, drew the hosts 1–1 and suffered a large defeat by 5–0 at the hands of Uruguay, although the team achieved a great 4–1 victory against Brazil with 3 goals by José Sanfilippo in the last match. Once the extra tournament finished, Moreno left his place and Guillermo Stábile started his 2nd period as coach of Argentina national team.

In 1960 Argentina won its first and only Panamerican championship held in San José, Costa Rica. That same year the team suffered 3 losses to Brazil: two of them in the Roca Cup and the next in the Atlantic Cup. That was the last match where Argentina was coached by Stábile in his second tenure. He would be replaced by Victorio Spinetto.

In 1961 Argentina started a tour across Europe, playing several matches against local national teams. The squad only achieved one victory against Portugal with 2 losses and 2 draws. After a short period coached by José D'Amico, Juan Carlos Lorenzo took over the team. Argentina made a poor performance at the 1962 FIFA World Cup, being defeated by England by 3-1 to be eliminated from the tournament.

In the 1963 Copa América, Argentina finished third in the tournament, although the team achieved important victories over Brazil by 3–0, Ecuador and Colombia but lost to Bolivia and Perú. That same year Argentina was also defeated by Brazil in the Roca Cup.

Nation's Cup

The team that won the Nations' Cup in 1964

In 1964 Argentina won the Nations' Cup, a friendly tournament organized by the Brazilian Association to commemorate its 50th anniversary. Argentina took part of the championship with the debut of José María Minella as coach, along with the local squad and Portugal. Then called "a little World Cup", the Nations' Cup is considered "the first great title" won by Argentina.[16] The team remained unbeaten winning all the matches played, with a large 3-0 over Brazil.[17] The victory over Brazil was highly praised by the media due to the Brazilian not being defeated as hosts since the 1950 World Cup final.[18] Argentina finished the tournament with no goals received.

The transition continues: 1965–74

Argentina, still coached by Minella, qualified to the 1966 World Cup held in England for the first time. The team shared their group with Chile, Paraguay and Bolivia. Argentina finished the round unbeaten with 3 matches won and only 2 draws. Minella left the team, being replaced by Osvaldo Zubeldía after qualification was over. Juan Carlos Lorenzo took over the squad, beginning his second tenure on the national side.

The national side played several friendly matches against the Soviet Union, Poland and Italy before its flight to England. Argentina only drew the first 2 games and was defeated in the last in Torino.

Antonio Rattín (#10) was sent off by referee Kreitlein in the match against England.

Argentina made its debut in Group 2 of the World Cup, defeating Spain by 2–1. The next matches were against West Germany, which ended 0–0 and Switzerland also won by 2–1. Argentina qualified to the quarter-finals where the team was defeated by the host team 1–0. It was a controversial match where midfielder Antonio Rattín was sent off by German referee Rudolf Kreitlein for "violence of the tongue", despite the referee speaking no Spanish. Rattín was so incensed with the decision, believing the referee to be biased in favour of England, that he refused to leave. As a way to show his disgust, he sat on the red carpet exclusively meant for the Queen to walk on. He eventually had to be escorted from the field by two policemen and as a final sign of disgust, wrinkled at a British pennant before being escorted out. This incident, and others surrounding the same game, arguably started the long-lasting rivalry between both national teams - but, on the other hand, allowed for the institution of yellow and red cards into football, a solution devised by FIFA after the spark that set off the incident.

Although Argentina did not make a great performance in England, the players were well received by the crowd in Ezeiza, in part due to the incident with Rattín and the Queen's carpet, where Rattín himself later saying that he "didn't know where he had sat on".[19]

The next step for the team was the 1967 Copa América hosted by Uruguay. Argentina made a good campaign, winning 5 over 6 matches disputed, being defeated only by the host team and finished 2nd.

During 1967 and 1969, the Football Association named 4 different coaches to the national team: Carmelo Faraone, who only coached two matches, Renato Cesarini, José M. Minella, Humberto Maschio, and Adolfo Pedernera. In those years Argentina played a series of friendly matches with most of them being South American teams and a few European teams. Argentina also played a new edition of the Lipton Cup, obtaining it by goal average over Uruguay.

In 1969, Argentina began qualifying for the 1970 FIFA World Cup under the coaching of Pedernera. The national squad shared its group with Bolivia and Perú, losing the first two games played as the away team. Although Argentina won the next game defeating Bolivia 1–0, the 2–2 draw against Perú in the last fixture (played at La Bombonera) allowed the Peruvian squad to be one of the South American representatives in the World Cup, eliminating Argentina.[19][20]

To date, this is the only time that Argentina has failed to qualify for a World Cup in which it entered a team. This poor performance that caused the absence of a national representative in the 1970 World Cup is still regarded as one of Argentina's biggest frustrations in its history.[21]

After the frustration of 1969, the Association named Juan José Pizzuti, who had won the Intercontinental Cup with Racing Club three years before, as coach of the national team. Pizzuti was the manager during three years, in which Argentina played several friendly games against South American teams, which included the 1971 Roca Cup title (shared with Brazil). In 1972 Argentina was invited to play the Brazil Independence Cup where the team did not achieve good results.

After the Independence Cup, Pizzuti was replaced by Omar Sívori, the most notable player of the 1957 Copa América triumph and had previous experience as manager of Rosario Central and Estudiantes de La Plata. Argentina played some friendly matches as preparation for the qualifying, with some interesting results such as a 3–2 over West Germany in Munich.

"The Ghost Team" and 1974 World Cup

Qualifying for the 1974 FIFA World Cup began in September 1973, where Argentina shared its group with Bolivia and Paraguay. Bolivia used to play its home venues at La Paz, where Argentine players suffered the lack of oxygen and other effects caused by the mountain sickness. To avoid complications, Sívori decide to prepare a team to play in altitude. Following his instructions, Miguel Ignomiriello took many players to Tilcara so they could become acclimatized to altitude.[22][23]

Argentina won the match played in La Paz by 1–0. That team was nicknamed La Selección Fantasma ("The Ghost National Team" in Spanish) due to the lack of organisation existing in the Association at the time, meaning the media could not get information about the team during its tenure in Tilcara. Year later, Mario Kempes revealed that the players themselves had to organize some friendly matches to get money to buy food because the Association forgot about them completely.[24][25]

Argentina won the other games against Bolivia and Paraguay (4–0 and 3–1 respectively, both in Buenos Aires), finally qualifying for the World Cup.

After having qualified for the 1974 World Cup, Sívori left and was replaced by Vladislao Cap. With its new coach on the bench, Argentina played only four matches before the competition, facing European teams. Argentina defeated Romania and France and drew England before suffering a defeat to the Netherlands by 4–1.

Once more, Argentina made a poor performance in a World Cup. They were defeated by Poland in their opening game by 3-2, achieving then a 1–1 draw with Italy. In the last game of the first round Argentina defeated Haiti by 4–1, granting qualification to the second round of the tournament, where the team lost to the Netherlands, Brazil, ending with a 1–1 draw to East Germany. Argentina finished last in the group table and 8th in the overall table.

The Menotti era: Beginning of greatness

The demise of the team in the World Cup forced the Association to make changes in Argentine football. David Bracuto was named President of the Football Association in 1974. He offered César Luis Menotti to be the coach of Argentina. Menotti accepted under his conditions, one of them being that native players under 25 should not be sold to foreign clubs.[26]

Menotti debuted on October 12, 1974, in a friendly match against Spain. Argentina began a long preparation for the 1978 World Cup that would be hosted on home soil for the very first time, playing friendly matches and tournaments. During those years Argentina played a total of 33 matches. 1977 was also the international debut of Diego Maradona, who played for the first time at age 16 against Hungary. The match was held in Buenos Aires with a large victory for Argentina by 5-1.[27]

Argentina also played a new edition of Copa América, where for the first time there was no fixed venue. All matches were played throughout each country across the tournament. Argentina debuted thrashing Venezuela but lost to Brazil in the two games played (2–1 and 1–0). Brazil qualified to the next stage and the national team was eliminated.

Argentina host the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 1978


In 1978, the final preparations for the World Cup began, playing several matches against South American and European teams. Although Maradona was considered one of the best players, Menotti did not include him in the definitive list for the tournament. Some sources state that the Argentine military junta that ruled Argentina by then pushed Menotti to include River Plate's midfielder Norberto Alonso instead of Maradona. Nevertheless, other journalists assert that there were too many offensive midfielders.[28]

Team captain Daniel Passarella holding the World Cup trophy.

Argentina finally debuted on 2 June 1978 against Hungary, winning 2–1. Argentina defeated France by 2–1 in the second game and qualifying for the second stage, although the team lost to Italy by 1–0, finishing second in Group A. In the second round Argentina was placed in Group 1 sharing it with Brazil, Poland and Peru. In the first game, Argentina beat Poland 2–0, with both goals from Mario Kempes. Next game was against South American powerhouse Brazil in which the game ended with a 0–0 draw. The last game was against Peru, a rival that Argentina easily defeated with a 6–0 win. Argentina was able to edge out Brazil in the group and went on to the final. Argentina had to beat Peru by four goals or more to progress. The nature of Argentina's victory has fueled rumors that the match was fixed.[29]

That large victory over Peru allowed Argentina to play the final. On 25 June 1978, at River Plate's Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires, Argentina played its second World Cup final. Mario Kempes gave Argentina the lead in the 38th minute, with the Dutch squad able to respond in the 82nd minute for the equalizer. The game went to extra time and Mario Kempes once again gave the Argentines the lead and Daniel Bertoni added another goal which sealed the win for Argentina, which became the second South American team to win the World Cup at its home soil. Kempes was not only the most notable player of the team but also the topscorer of the tournament with 6 goals.

After the success of the World Cup, Menotti continued as coach and Argentina played some friendly match as preparation for the 1979 Copa América. Maradona scored his first goal for the Senior team against Scotland in Glasgow, where Argentina won 3-1.[30]

In 1979 Argentina contested a new edition of the Copa América. The squad shared its group with Brazil and Bolivia, both of which defeated Argentina. Argentina largely won the 2nd game to Bolivia 3-0 but drew with Brazil 2-2 the last game and being eliminated from the tournament.

The highlight of 1979 was the 1979 FIFA World Youth Championship obtained by the under-20 team in Tokyo. The team, also coached by Menotti, won the tournament with Diego Maradona and Ramón Díaz as the leaders and most notable players of the squad. The tournament was also the first official championship played by Maradona in a national team.

Due to Argentina needing no qualifiers to the next World Cup as holders, the national team played a series of matches as preparation for the competition. In 1980 there was no official tournaments so the team toured on Europe and also hosted friendly games in some of the most important cities of Argentina such as Mar del Plata, Córdoba and Mendoza. Argentina played the 1980 Mundialito, a competition hosted by Uruguay in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first World Cup tournament, where the team defeated West Germany and drew with Brazil to be eliminated in the first stage.

Demise in 1982: the end of an era and the beginning of the Maradona era

Argentina players leaving the field after being eliminated by Brazil at the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

In 1982 the Argentine squad went to Spain to play in the 1982 World Cup while the country was fighting the Guerra de Malvinas, after the invasion of the islands had been ordered by president Leopoldo Galtieri on April 2.

The lineup was based on the 1978 team with the addition of Diego Maradona (who had won a domestic title playing at a high level) and Ramón Díaz. The squad arrived in Spain as a big favourite to win the Cup. Argentina debuted with a 1–0 loss to Belgium at the massive Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. There were internal tensions within the camp between the older and younger players, and this caused problems. Nevertheless, the team recovered by defeating Hungary (4-1) and El Salvador (2–0) therefore qualifying for the next stage. In the second round, Argentina shared a group with Italy and Brazil, being defeated by both (3–1 and 2–1) and eliminated from the championship. Maradona could not show his skills during the tournament, suffering from the rough play of rivals (especially Claudio Gentile in the game against Italy). He would eventually be sent off by the referee after kicking Brazilian player Joao Batista in the groin.[31][32]

Other players that formed the squad were Juan Barbas, Gabriel Calderón (from the 1979 Youth champion), Patricio Hernández, Julio Olarticoechea, Enzo Trossero and Jorge Valdano.

The failure at the World Cup caused Menotti to leave his post. Despite the poor performances, the national team achieved two World titles (Senior and Youth) during the 9 years with Menotti as coach. That was the first time that Argentina planned and carried out long-term work with clear and serious objectives.[33][34]

Carlos Bilardo era: the road to Mexico

To replace Menotti, the Football Association choose Carlos Bilardo, who had won the 1982 Metropolitano with Estudiantes de La Plata. Bilardo was famous for his perfectionism and obsession with tactic and strategy of the game, which called the attention as much as followers as critics. The Bilardo era began in May 1983 with a 2–2 draw with Chile in Santiago. Soon after Argentina played the 1983 Copa América, the first official tournament with Bilardo. The squad was eliminated on first round with 3 draws (2 with Ecuador and a 0–0 with Brazil), winning its only match 1–0 to Brazil in Buenos Aires.

The team was formed by footballers playing in domestic Argentine Primera División exclusively, being some of them goalkeepers Ubaldo Fillol and Nery Pumpido, defenders Néstor Clausen, José Luis Brown, Enzo Trossero, Julio Olarticoechea and Roberto Mouzo; midfielders Claudio Marangoni, Jorge Burruchaga, Alejandro Sabella and José Daniel Ponce; forwards Ricardo Gareca, Alberto Márcico.

After the Copa América, Argentina travelled to Calcuta to play the Nehru Cup, then playing a series of friendly matches before the qualifiers to 1986 World Cup in Mexico. The team made a successful tour on Europe where it won the 3 matches disputed, including a 3–1 against West Germany in Düsseldorf. In May 1985 Argentina played its first qualifying match against Venezuela, winning 3–2. Argentina won three consecutive games, to Colombia (3–1 as visitor and 1–0) and Venezuela (3–0 in Buenos Aires) but lost to Peru 1–0 in Lima, in a match where midfielder Claudio Reyna marked Maradona with excessive roughness although he was not sent off by the referee.[35][36]

Argentina played the last match of the qualifiers against Perú in Buenos Aires. The visitor team won by 2–1 qualifying to Mexico but in the last minutes of the match Ricardo Gareca scored the 2–2 that allowed Argentina to be one of the four South American representatives at Mexico.[37]

Although he led the team to a new qualification for a World Cup, Bilardo was hardly criticized by the media which focused on the low level of the team during the process. Some journalists also accused Bilardo to play defensively, leaving behind the historic Argentine landmark of short passes and dribblings according to their point of view. Clarín, the most popular newspaper of Argentina, was one of the hardest opponents of the coach, and Bilardo himself declared that Clarín called Association President Julio Grondona to ask him to fire the coach.[38]

Before the Cup Argentina toured Europe losing to France (one of the favorites to win the Cup) and Norway and largely defeating Israel by 7-2.[39]

1986: Return to the glory

The team that debuted v. South Korea at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario in Mexico City.

Argentina entered the 1986 World Cup with hope because of one player, Diego Maradona. Argentina was placed in Group A alongside Italy, Bulgaria, and South Korea. In the first game, Argentina was able to beat South Korea 3–1. The second match was against Italy, a tougher opponent. Italy took the lead in the 6th minute but Diego Maradona responded with a goal in the 34th minute. The game later ended with a 1–1 draw. The last group game was against Bulgaria, which resulted in a 2–0 Argentina win; therefore Argentina passed to the next round being the first in the group.

My daughter Daniela could not be called by her last name. The word "Bilardo" was banned. I could not walk on the street, I could not get out of my house. After the World Cup, everything changed

Carlos Bilardo on the previous days to the 1986 World Cup [38]

Argentina entered the Round of 16 against South American rival Uruguay in Puebla. The hot-tempered game ended in a 1–0 win for Argentina. Next, Argentina moved on to the quarter-finals, playing England at the huge Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. The game started very evenly, with both teams getting chances to score but none were able to finish. The first half ended with Argentina having the majority of possession but unable to get past a tough defense. Six minutes following the second half Diego Maradona scored a controversial goal in which he used his hand; once the match finished, Maradona called it "La mano de Dios" (the hand of God) explicitly admitting the infringement. The goal began with a defensive error from Steve Hodge, who passed the ball incorrectly back to the goalkeeper, Peter Shilton. At that time Maradona was still continuing his run and reached the ball first and netted it in with his left fist. After the goal, Maradona encouraged his teammates to embrace the goal so the referee would allow it. Four minutes after the "hand of God" goal, Diego Maradona scored a goal which people called "The Goal of the Century" because of the individual effort of Maradona, who starting his run from the half-way line, passed four English midfielders (he beat midfielder Terry Butcher twice) and dribbled around the goalkeeper Shilton finally scoring the goal that allowed Argentina to win the match, 2–1. That victory was very celebrated due to not only the rivalry between both teams but Argentina had lost the Guerra de Malvinas at the hands of the British Army four years before.[40]

Diego Maradona raising the FIFA World Cup trophy at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

In semi-finals, Argentina defeated Belgium 2–0 at the Azteca to advance to the final against West Germany. Argentina won a game played at the Azteca in which the squad won its second World Cup title. José Luis Brown opened the scoring for Argentina, then the team increased the lead with a goal by Jorge Valdano. Germany started a comeback with goals from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Völler, which evened the game at 2–2. Jorge Burruchaga scored the winning goal in the 83rd minute, giving Argentina a 3–2 victory over Germany.

Argentina remained unbeaten in the World Cup, winning 5 over 6 matches disputed. Diego Maradona played at a superlative level,[41][42] as he had done in the 1979 Youth Championship leading Argentina to the title. Maradona was the national team top-scorer with 5 goals, apart from winning the Gold Boot as the best player of the tournament.[43]

Other important players for the team were defenders José Luis Brown and Oscar Ruggeri, midfielders Héctor Enrique and Jorge Burruchaga and forward Jorge Valdano. The line-up in the final was: Nery Pumpido, Brown, José Luis Cuciuffo, Ruggeri, Julio Olarticoechea; Ricardo Giusti, Sergio Batista, Enrique, Burruchaga; Maradona, Valdano.


After winning the World Cup, the players went on vacation and Argentina did not play a match until 1987, when a new edition of Copa América was contested. The tournament changed its format returning to a unique host, being Argentina the chosen. Argentine formed a team with a mix of players from Europa and local leagues. The squad debuted with an 1-1 draw against Perú, then beating Ecuador by 3-0. But in the second stage, Argentina lost to Uruguay (which would be the champion) by 1-0 at Buenos Aires and was eliminated. At the end of 1987 Argentina played West Germany (the rival of the 1986 final) winning 1-0 in Estadio José Amalfitani. In 1988 the squad played the Four Nations Cup, losing to Soviet Union (4-2) and West Germany (1-0).

Argentina immediately went to Australia to play the Australia Bicentennial Gold Cup, where the team did not give a good performance, with one win against Saudi Arabia and a large defeat by the local team who beat them 4-1.

Back to Argentina, the team started its preparation for the 1989 Copa América played at Brazil. Argentina qualified to the second round after beating Chile and Uruguay (both 1-0) and two draws with Ecuador and Bolivia (both 0-0). In the second stage Argentina lost to Brazil and Uruguay (both 2-0) and only drew with Paraguay 0-0. Argentina was eliminated without winning a game and with no goals scored on this round. Some players of the team were Pumpido, Brown, Ruggeri, Clausen, Cuciuffo, Burruchaga, Maradona, Enrique, Giusti (all of them World champions in 1986), Claudio Caniggia, Abel Balbo, Luis Islas, Roberto Sensini, Gabriel Calderón, Néstor Gorosito and Pedro Troglio.

1990: Finalist again

Argentina went to the 1990 FIFA World Cup with no qualifiers needed as being the last champion. Previous to World Cup the national team played some several matches with no good results: Argentina lost to Mexico (0-2) and Scotland (0-2), winning just one of the five games played (to Israel, chosen again to be the last rival before the tournament as it had been four years before). In addition, Jorge Valdano (one of the most important players during the '86 World Cup) trained hard in order to be in good physical condition for the Cup but Bilardo decided not to include him in the definitive list of players. Due to that Valdano said his famous cite: "I swam through the ocean but I drowned at the shore".[44]

Argentina finally debuted at the inaugural match in Giuseppe Meazza Stadium in Milan, being defeated by Cameroon (which played its 2nd World Cup) by 1-0. This result caused a great surprise in Argentina[45] so the national team line-up was based on the 1986 World Champion.

The moment when Claudio Caniggia scores the goal v Brazil in Turin.

Argentina won its second match against the Soviet Union 2-0 (where titular goalkeeper Nery Pumpido seriously injured being replaced by Sergio Goycochea for the rest of the tournament), and drew 1-1 with Romania the last game of first round, both played at Naples, where Maradona played for the city's team in Italy's Serie A. The team qualified to the second round, where they faced Brazil at the Stadio delle Alpi in Turin. In a match where Brazil played much better than Argentina, with forwards Muller and Careca repeatedly shooting to the goal but missing the target (the ball clashed Argentina's posts a couple of times, while Goycoechea stopped other shots) Argentina (with Maradona in bad physical condition) resisted Brazilian offensive movements during the first half, which ended 0-0. In the second half, Brazil was not so persistent as it had been during the first 45 minutes, so Argentina took advantage of the situation. When 9 minutes left to the end of the game, Maradona took the ball in the centre of the field, dribbled 3 opponents and throwed a precise pass to winger Claudio Caniggia who advanced with the ball scoring a goal after dribbling goalkeeper Taffarel. Argentina won the match 1-0 eliminating its arch-rival in a World Cup for the first time. That match is still regarded by the media and fans as one of the most remarkable moments of an Argentine national team.[46][47]

For their quarter final match in Florence, Argentina barely eliminated Yugoslavia by an exciting penalty shootout,[48] with Goycoechea becoming a hero after stopping 3 penalty kicks, including the last two.[49] Maradona also missed a penalty kick, a rare occurrence; at one point Argentina were behind the Yugoslav's, but Goycoechea's outstanding goalkeeping kept Argentina in the tournament.

The squad that beat Italy in Napoli, qualifying for the final.

Argentina advanced to semi-finals, where had to play against Italy in Naples. The local host was considered favourite to win the match because their striker Salvatore Schillaci was the tournament's top scorer (He would be awarded both the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball at the end of the tournament) and Argentina had many injured players, Maradona being one of them. Nevertheless, Argentina made its best performance in the World Cup and the match ended 1-1 in the first 90 minutes. There were no goals at extra time therefore the game went to a penalty shootout. Goycoechea was the Argentine hero again stopping the shots from Serena and Donadoni and Argentina advanced to its second consecutive final in a World Cup.

Argentina played against West Germany which was coached by former player Franz Beckenbauer. Caniggia was suspended for 1 game after receiving a yellow card in the match against Italy so he could not play the final. Germany arrived to the final as a wide favorite to take the Cup, due to the facts that the squad had showed an effective and precise playing style, unlike Argentina which (with the exception of the game with Italy) had not had good previous performances. In addition, German footballers were in good condition while the Argentine players came to the final with several injuries, Maradona being one of them. The game proved to be violent, brutal and bad tempered- particularly thanks to the Argentine side.

Nevertheless, Germany only could score a goal at 83 minutes for a doubtful punishment by Mexican referee Edgardo Codesal, who awarded Germany a penalty kick for what he thought was a foul by Roberto Sensini against Rudi Völler. The call was controversial, and it was heavily debated by the Argentinian players. Andreas Brehme converted the penalty kick to give West Germany team its third World Cup title.[50][51]

The 1986 World champion side could not repeat the high performances made 4 years before, most notably Diego Maradona, who played all the tournament injured which heavily decreased his performance on the field. Other players such as Ruggeri, Burruchaga played in similar conditions due to the injuries.[52]

The most notable player for Argentina was Sergio Goycochea, who is still remembered by his outstanding performance at the penalty shootouts.[53]

Coming of Basile

Alfio Basile led the team that won Copa América in 1991 and 1993.

After the World Cup Bilardo resigned, considering that his era had finished. So did Diego Maradona, announcing that 1990 World Cup had been his last tournament playing for Argentina.[54]

Alfio Basile was announced as his replacement. The new coach started his tenure convinced that the new era would come up with youth players to the team, so he mostly called up footballers who were playing in the domestic league rather than footballers from international championships, at least for the first time.

Argentina debuted with Basile on the bench in February 1991, defeating Hungary 2–0 in Rosario, Santa Fe. The national team played some friendly matches and tournaments such as the Stanley Rous Cup where Argentina drew 2–2 with England at Wembley (after a partial score of 0-2 at the end of the first half). In March, Diego Maradona failed a drug test for cocaine in Italy, being suspended by 15 months.[55][56]

Gabriel Batistuta, all-time Argentina top scorer with 56 goals

1991 was also the year when Argentina played its first official championship with Basile, the Copa América held in Chile. Argentina won its 13th. Cup after 32 years, with a great performance on the field. The team debuted with a wide 3–0 to Venezuela, then defeating Chile 1–0 finishing the first stage with a 4–1 over Paraguay.

On the final round, the Albiceleste achieved a great 3–2 over Brazil, then drew 0–0 with Chile and defeated Colombia 2–1 in the final game, winning the Cup due to points average. Argentina won the tournament unbeaten, winning 6 of 7 matches. Gabriel Batistuta was also the topscorer of the Cup with 6 goals. Apart from Batistuta, Sergio Goycochea, Leonardo Astrada, Claudio Caniggia, Diego Simeone (who wore the #10), Dario Franco, Leo Rodríguez were some of the most Argentine notable players.[54]

In 1992 Argentina won the friendly tournament Kirin Cup (defeating Japan and Wales). Then, in October, the team won the King Fahd Cup, where they easily defeated Ivory Coast 4–0 in the semi final and Saudi Arab 3-1 in the final game.

On February 24, 1993, Diego Maradona returned to the team when Argentina played the Artemio Franchi Trophy against Denmark in Mar del Plata. Argentina won 5-4 by penalty shoot-out after an 1–1 draw.[57]

That same year the national team also played the Copa América hosted by Ecuador, winning its second consecutive South American title. Diego Maradona had returned to active football after being suspended due to the incident with drugs but Basile did not call him for the Cup so Simeone wore the emblematic number "10" again.

Argentina only drew the matches against Mexico and Colombia (both 1–1) and defeated Bolivia 1–0 to pass to the next stage. Argentina first eliminated Brazil for 2nd. consecutive time, (6–5 by penalty shoot-out after an 1–1 draw), then Colombia by the same way (6–5 p.s.), arriving to the final game against Mexico, which the national team won 2–1 (Batistuta twice). Argentina achieved its 14th title winning only 2 matches within 90 minutes.[58] This is the last Copa América Argentina has won to date.[59]

Some of the players that took part in the squad were Goycochea, Ruggeri, Batistitua, Franco, Simeone, Fernando Redondo and Luis Islas.

A second "disaster" in 1993

Immediately after the Copa América, Argentina had to play the qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup which would be held in the United States. The team shared group with Colombia, Paraguay and Peru. Argentina won the first two as visitor to Perú (1–0 in Lima) and Paraguay (3–1 in Asunción) but lost to Colombia 2–1 in Barranquilla. In Buenos Aires, Argentina defeated Peru 2–1, drew with Paraguay 0–0 and suffered a catastrophic loss to Colombia by 5–0 on September 5, 1993 in the Estadio Monumental. It became the largest defeat to a national team since a 1–6 result in the 1958 World Cup. Colombia (with great players such as "El Pibe" Valderrama, Freddy Rincón, Faustino Asprilla and Leonel Alvarez) not only won the qualifiers unbeaten but sent Argentina to play against the representative of Oceania to get a place for the World Cup.[60]

The most important sports magazine of Argentina, El Gráfico, went into "mourning" with a completely black cover with the only legend: "Vergüenza" (Shame) that expressed the deception and humillation after the hard defeat.[61][62]

Argentina had to play two knockout games against Australia to get a place in the World Cup. Basile asked Maradona to return to the national squad so the team needed him to qualify to the Cup. Maradona agreed and he flew to Sydney with the rest of the team.[63] Argentina played the first game on 31 October 1993 which ended 1–1. The second match was in Buenos Aires, where the national team won 1–0 (Batistuta) qualifying for the World Cup. The objective was accomplished.[64]

Another hard time: USA '94

Argentina played some friendly matches as preparation for the World Cup. The team lost to Brazil 0–2 but beat Morocco 3–1 at Salta and smashed Israel 3–0 in Ramat Gan. Argentina debuted in the championship thrashing Greece 4–0 in Boston, with a hat-trick by Batistuta. Maradona also scored the 3rd goal for Argentina, which would be his last goal in a World Cup. The national team played its second match against Nigeria again in Boston, which defeated by 2–1 (2 goals by Caniggia). At the end of the match, Argentina became a favorite to win the tournament, due to the attacking playing style showed by the squad (playing with four forwards), the amount of goals scored and the good performances of some of its players such as Redondo, Caniggia, Batistuta, and even the aging Maradona who looked in great shape and scored a gem of a goal.

At the end of the game against Nigeria, Maradona was called for the drug test, which gave positive results for ephedrine, a banned substance. The impact and repercussion of the news were immediate, and Maradona was expelled from the tournament and suspended for 15 months by FIFA.[65]

With the team still hurt after losing its leader, Argentina was defeated by Bulgaria in the sweltering heat of Dallas for their last match of the first round. The team qualified to the knockout phase, where they were beaten by Romania 3–2 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena just outside Los Angeles. After the successes of 1986 and 1990, Argentina was eliminated in the second round. Although eliminated in the second round, in an ESPN interview with Quique Wolff, Maradona called the 1994 squad the greatest Argentina team of all time.

World Cup 1998

With Maradona officially retired, Argentina went into the tournament with high expectations, still fielding players from their previous tournament, with Gabriel Batistuta still a constant goalscoring threat and Diego Simeone remaining as the leading figure from the anchorman position. Drawn into Group H of the competition, their opponents consisted of Japan, Jamaica and Croatia. They began their campaign with a 1-0 victory over the Asian nation, following it up with a 5-0 demolition of the Caribbeans. Their third group game was against the Croatians, who had also confirmed qualification to the next round and ended with victory for the Albiceleste by 1-0.

Argentina went into the knockout phase with the impressive record of seven goals scored, keeping clean sheets in all three group games. Their opponent was England, fielding an equally strong team. Argentina took the lead with just six minutes played through Gabriel Batistuta from the penalty spot, only for Alan Shearer to equalize through the same means four minutes later. Six minutes after, youngster Michael Owen broke past Roberto Ayala to score a great individual effort, which was eventually cancelled out one minute into stoppage time after a free kick routine put Javier Zanetti through on goal to score, leaving the final result at 2-2 at the end of the first half.

In the second half, England playmaker David Beckham was sent off after a kick on Simeone, with the scores remaining unchanged until the end of normal time and extra time. Argentina won 4-3 on penalties, after Ayala scored the decisive spot kick to book their quarter-final spot, where the Netherlands awaited them.

The game was an equally fought match, with both sides scoring early goals; Patrick Kluivert netting after just twelve minutes and Claudio López equalizing five minutes later. Argentina held an advantage as the Dutch went a man down with the dismissal of Arthur Numan after his second booking for a foul on Simeone, though they were unable to take the opportunity and break the deadlock before they too went a man down; with Ariel Ortega receiving two successive yellow cards, the first one for diving inside the penalty box, with the second coming after headbutting Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. Argentina's defence held tightly as extra-time beckoned, until a long aerial ball from Dutch captain Frank de Boer found Dennis Bergkamp, who maneuvered around Ayala and beat the Argentine goalkeeper Roa to send the Dutch through, eliminating Argentina from the competition.

World Cup 2006

Argentina had been eliminated at the group stage at Korea/Japan 2002 FIFA World Cup, although they had been among the pre-tournament favorites. There was a high expectation of a better performance in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.

Argentina qualified for the knockout stages with wins over Côte d'Ivoire (2–1) and Serbia and Montenegro (6–0), and a 0–0 draw with the Netherlands.

In the round of sixteen, Argentina defeated Mexico 2–1 in extra-time, the winning goal scored by Maxi Rodríguez; this goal went on to win an online poll organized by FIFA as the best goal of the World Cup.[66] In the quarter-final, they lost 4–2 in a penalty shootout against hosts Germany after a 1–1 draw. A brawl erupted between the Argentines and Germans after the game ended. Unused substitute Leandro Cufré was sent off for kicking Per Mertesacker, while Maxi Rodríguez hit Bastian Schweinsteiger from behind. Following an investigation of video evidence, FIFA doled out four-game and two-game suspensions for Cufre and Rodríguez, respectively. Germany's Torsten Frings was suspended for the semi-final match for punching Julio Cruz.

Shortly after the elimination, coach José Pekerman resigned from his position. The AFA appointed Alfio Basile, who had previously managed the national side during the 1994 FIFA World Cup, as his successor.

Copa América 2007

Argentina won all three games in the group stage, beating the United States, Colombia, and Paraguay. After convincing victories over Peru and Mexico in the quarter-final and semi-final, respectively, they were favorites to beat Brazil in the final, but were defeated 3–0.

World Cup 2010

Lionel Messi carries out the ball, followed by Lukas Podolski in the quarter-finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Prior to the World Cup, Diego Maradona was appointed head coach. Argentina was placed in Group B in the 2010 World Cup and won all their games in that group. Their first game was against Nigeria. Argentina netted a goal in the sixth minute but struggled to add another one throughout the game. The game ended with a 1–0 victory for Argentina. Their second game was against South Korea. This time Argentina was able to find the net more easily with a hat trick from Gonzalo Higuaín and an own goal from the opposing team. Argentina won the game 4–1. Argentina's last group game was against Greece in which they won 2–0.

Argentina then advanced to the round of 16 and played Mexico. The game started with controversy when Carlos Tevez headed a ball from Lionel Messi for a goal; replay clearly showed that Tevez was in an offside position. Eventually, Argentina beat Mexico 3–1 to advance to the quarter-finals. In a much-hyped game, Argentina was shocked after Germany thrashed them with a 4–0 win. Thomas Müller opened the scoring in the third minute, Miroslav Klose earned a brace, and Arne Friedrich netted a goal as well. Their 4–0 loss to Germany marked the end of Argentina in the World Cup.

Copa América 2011

Argentina line-up at a friendly match vs. Portugal in Geneva, February 2011.

The 2011 Copa América was the first major tournament for new coach Sergio Batista. Argentina started the tournament with a shocking 1–1 tie against underdogs Bolivia. In their second game, they played a goalless draw against Colombia in Santa Fe, but went on to win their third game 3–0 against underdogs Costa Rica. Argentina was to play Uruguay in the quarter-finals. After going down after five minutes to a Diego Pérez goal, Gonzalo Higuaín equalized in the 17th minute. The score remained unchanged and after extra time, Argentina lost 5–4 in a penalty shootout with a miss from Carlos Tevez. After the elimination, coach Sergio Batista was sacked, replaced by former Estudiantes de La Plata coach Alejandro Sabella.

World Cup 2014

Argentina qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and were drawn into Group F with Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Argentina had beaten all three of those teams, easily making it through to the next round. In the next round, they beat Switzerland 1–0 after a goalless 90 minutes. In the quarterfinals, they beat Belgium, also 1–0, via an early goal. They beat the Netherlands 4-2 from a penalty shootout in São Paulo but lost to eventual winners Germany in the final at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, concluding the World Cup as the runner-up squad.

2015 Copa América

Despite the defeat in the World Cup, Argentina entered the subsequent tournament, the 2015 Copa América as heavy favorites to take home the trophy. The Argentines began their group stage against Paraguay, where they led 2-0 for most of the match before being pegged back twice to leave the end score at 2-2. Despite doubts in their defense, they overcame the difficulties to beat fellow favorites Uruguay and Jamaica. Their quarter-final rival was Colombia, whose sturdy defense was impossible to break through and goalkeeper David Ospina making impressive saves to keep the game tied at 0-0. In the penalty shootout, Argentina missed several chances until Carlos Tévez, who was the sole player to miss his spot kick during the previous tournament, netted his attempt to send la Albiceleste through to the semi-finals against Paraguay once more. The game was evenly played until half-time, when the score was 2-1 to Argentina, but four more goals during the second half allowed Argentina to cruise to a Final, where they met against the host nation Chile.

The Final was a hotly contested match, with both sides having great chances to open the scoring, particularly with a powerful shot from Sergio Agüero in the first half for Argentina, with Alexis Sánchez having a clear one for Chile in the second half. With the scores still tied at the end of regulation, the match went to penalties. Only the captain Lionel Messi netted his penalty attempt, with Gonzalo Higuaín sending his attempt well over the crossbar and Ever Banega having his shot saved by Claudio Bravo to leave the final scoreline at 4-1 in penalties.

Copa América Centenario

Once more, Argentina entered the tournament as heavy favorites to take home the trophy after 22 years of international drought. La Albiceleste cruised through their group, with their opening match being a replay of the Copa América Final from the year before against trophy holders Chile, which Argentina would go on to win 2-1. Further victories against Panama and Bolivia allowed them to top the group with the maximum amount of points. Their quarter-final match was against surprise package Venezuela, where the match remained even for both sides before the Argentines defeated the Venezuelans 4-1. They dispatched the host nation the United States by 4-0 and earned yet another Final clash against the same opponent, Chile.

As previously, it was an even match, with Chile initially having the upper hand and more possession before going a man down, with Marcelo Díaz being dismissed after obstructing Messi on the ball. This, however, made it more difficult for Argentina to break through their defense, and they too would go a man down not long after with Marcos Rojo receiving a straight red card for a tackle on Arturo Vidal. Once again the match finished 0-0 and it went to penalties again. Although Sergio Romero saved Vidal's penalty kick, Messi shot his attempt over the crossbar, with the subsequent players netting their attempts until Bravo saved from Lucas Biglia and Francisco Silva netted the final penalty to once again hand Chile the trophy. The defeat caused frustration within the Argentine players, with Messi announcing his retirement from international football not long after, as well as many others suggesting their departure from the national team as well.



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