Messi leads a strong Argentine attack into South Africa

World Ranking: 7th

Best World Cup result: Winners (1978, 1986)

Manager: Diego Maradona

Probable starting eleven:

Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero

Defenders: Gabriel Heinze, Walter Samuel, Martin Demichelis,Nicholas Otamendi

Midfielders: Juan Sebastion Veron, Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria

Forwards: Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero

Key Subs: Diego Milito,Maxi Rodriguez, Carlos Tevez

Unless it’s for tears of joy, Argentina doesn’t plan on doing any crying during this year’s FIFA World Cup.

The two-time champions enter the 2010 tournament with the same expectations they go in with every four years; to win it all.

Led by top strikers Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina is the overwhelming favorite to come out ahead in Group B, one that includes Greece, Nigeria, and South Korea. And although expectations are predictably high for the Albiceleste, the road to South Africa has been far from easy.

Argentina would need the final game of the tournament to qualify for the Cup, after defeating Uruguay 1-0 in Montevideo. Following uninspired play during the early part of qualification, coach Alfio Basile resigned and was replaced by Argentine-legend, Diego Maradona.

Maradona, who single-handedly willed his country to a thrilling ’86 title, has been met with mixed reviews for his coaching style and lack of experience. He will likely employ a 4-4-2 formation in an effort to showcase the team’s offensive firepower.

Leading the charge will be Messi, considered by many to be the best football player in the world. Messi’s exceptional ball skills and breakaway speed from midfield provide Argentina with the type of top-level talent that can carry a country through an entire tournament.

If cementing his legacy wasn’t enough, Messi will have the added motivation of a disappointing 2006 World Cup for extra incentive. The 22-year-old striker, who was not a starter for the national team four years ago, could only look on from the bench as his team was eliminated by host country Germany in the quarter-finals.

Messi will be joined on the attack by top forwards Higuain and Sergio Aguero, in addition to midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron. The playmaker’s open field vision and ability to facilitate scoring chances give Argentina one of the most potent attacks in the tournament.

Timely defence and consistent play seem to be the only things standing in the way of Argentina and a date in the final.