If the ‘Fantastic Quartet’ of Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria is on song, Argentina can emerge victorious in Brazil to claim a third World Cup.
Despite boasting a wealth of riches in attack, Argentina is playing down its chances of overall victory and setting its sights primarily on ending a quarterfinal jinx.
“It’s very difficult to become a world champion. We mustn’t believe we’re the best. In fact, we know we’re not the best, but we are a (world) power,” coach Alejandro Sabella said recently.
“We can’t get involved in triumphalism. We must remain emotionally balanced; even more so when we go out onto the pitch,” he warned.
Balance is a key word for Sabella, who has built a harmonious squad which gets along well both on and off the pitch. This might explain the absence of striker Carlos Tevez, despite his Juventus form, an individualist that Sabella feels he cannot seamlessly introduce to the team.
Argentina has reached the last eight at three of the last four tournaments, going out to Germany in 2006 and 2010, and has not reached the semifinals since Italia 1990, when it reached the final and was beaten by West Germany.
It was handed a good draw that should see it win Group F ahead of debutant Bosnia & Herzegovina, Iran and African champion Nigeria and set-up a last-16 meeting with the second-placed team in Group E, made up of France, Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras.
Sabella has the tactical know-how to weather the mounting difficulties as the tournament progresses and breaking the quarterfinal barrier could see his team go all the way to the final again.
On the four occasions Argentina has reached the last four - 1930, 1978, 1986 and 1990 - it has also gone on to play in the final.
La Albiceleste topped the 16-match South American qualifying group during a brilliant 2012 when its first-choice side went unbeaten in nine matches, including friendlies, and Messi scored 12 goals (including two hat-tricks).
Last year brought Sabella a few problems, not least Messi’s nagging hamstring injury that he will have been glad to have got over well before the tournament kicks off on June 12.
A virtual reserve side suffered a solitary defeat in the qualifiers to Uruguay in October with key midfielder Fernando Gago, who dictates the pace of Argentina’s game and acts as a supply line for Messi, missing that and most of its other matches through injury.
Surprise is a key element for Argentina, which plays its best game when Gago, Javier Mascherano and di Maria play in midfield behind Messi, Higuain and Aguero.
The transition from defence to midfield is a weakness, along with dealing with high balls into the penalty area despite tall centre-backs in Federico Fernandez and Ezequiel Garay.
Sergio ‘Chiquito’ (little one) Romero is a big, imposing goalkeeper, but is highly circumspect when dealing with crosses. Sabella has kept faith in him despite his lack of regular first team football at Monaco.