Team Profile: Argentina

Appearances at finals
1930 – Runners-up
1934 – First round
1958 – First round
1962 – First round
1966 – Quarter-finals
1974 – Second group stage
1978 – Winners
1982 – Second group stage
1986 – Winners
1990 – Runners-up
1994 – Second round
1998 – Quarter-finals
2002 – First round
2006 – Quarter-finals

Overall record at finals: Played 65, Won 33, Drawn 13, Lost 19.

Best performance: Winners in 1978 and 1986.

Most appearances at finals: Diego Maradona (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994) – 21.

Most goals at finals: Gabriel Batistuta (1994, 1998, 2002) – 9.

World Cup high: Diego Maradona scoring a thrilling solo goal against England in the quarter-finals at the Mexico 86 World Cup.

World Cup low: Losing 6-1 against Czechoslovakia in Sweden 58.

World Cup legend: Diego Maradona. He scored five goals and was the indisputable star of the Mexico 86 tournament.

The story so far: In 1930, Argentina reached the first World Cup final, which ended in a victory for Uruguay, the tournament hosts. The Argentine national team have also topped the football world twice. In 1978, playing at home, the squad coached by Cesar Menotti and led by Mario Kempes defeated Holland in extra-time to clinch their first World Cup.

Eight years later, Diego Maradona played at his absolute peak and took Carlos Bilardo’s team to the title in Mexico after defeating Germany in the final. Argentina also reached the final in 1990, when Germany avenged their loss at Aztec Stadium four years earlier and defeated Argentina 1-0 in Rome.

Argentina have failed to qualify only once, after being defeated in the qualifiers in 1970. They have refused to participate in three other World Cups for political reasons but since 1974 they have played in every World Cup, and they have been eliminated in the first round only once, in 2002.

Qualification: The road to South Africa was filled with pitfalls for the two-time champions. Argentina only qualified following the very last game of the tournament, after defeating Uruguay 1-0 in Montevideo, where they had not won since 1976. After their defeat against Chile in the tenth game, coach Alfio Basile quit and Diego Maradona took over.

Under his watch, the team failed to meet expectations and they were pummelled 6-1 by Bolivia in La Paz. However, history weighed heavier in the last two games, and victories against Peru and Uruguay were enough to reach the World Cup. Many people in Argentina dream about repeating the epic 1986 campaign in which the team made it to the World Cup after a turbulent qualifying campaign and went on to become world champions.

Qualifying record: P18, W8, D4, L6, F23, A20, Pts28.

Most appearances: Lionel Messi (18).

Top goalscorers: Sergio Agüero, Lionel Messi, Juan Román Riquelme (4).

Team Profile: Brazil

Appearances at finals:
1930: First round
1934: First round
1938: Third place
1950. Runners-up
1954: Quarter-finals
1958: Winners
1962. Winners
1966: First round
1970: Winners
1974: Fourth place
1978: Third place
1982: Second group stage
1986: Quarter-finals
1990: Second round
1994: Winners
1998: Runners-up
2002: Winners
2006: Quarter-finals

Overall record at finals: Played 92, Won 64, Drawn 14, Lost 14.Best performance: Winners in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. Most appearances at finals: Cafú (1994, 1998, 2002, 2006) – 21.Most goals at finals. Ronaldo (1998, 2002, 2006) – 15.

World Cup high: Becoming the first country to win three World Cups with what has been described as the world’s greatest ever team in 1970. They defeated Italy 4-1 in the final and were graced by an attacking line-up that boasted Pelé, Tostao, Gerson, Jairzinho and Rivelino. As close to attacking football perfection as has yet been seen.

World Cup low: Losing the final of France 98, where star man Ronaldo played like a zombie after suffering a fit in the hours leading up to the match. Brazil had no answer to a Zinedine Zidane-inspired France and crashed to a 3-0 defeat.

World Cup legend: Pelé played in four World Cups and remains the only player to have won three World Cups. He was champion for the first time as a 17-year-old at Sweden 1958. Having missed much of the 1962 tournament after suffering an injury in Brazil’s second game, and then being kicked out of the tournament after rough-house tactics from Hungary and Portugal as Brazil exited, he secured his legend at Mexico 70, where he inspired the tournament’s best-ever team, scoring in the final and providing the assist for Carlos Alberto’s wonderful goal to clinch the 4-1 win. Overall, he played 14 games and scored a total of 12 goals.

The story so far: The team and country most associated with the World Cup, Brazil’s love affair with the greatest show on earth has been one of constant attendance. They are the only team to have played in all 19 tournaments and their non-participation is almost unthinkable.

They first showed their potential in 1938 when losing in the semi-finals and unearthing a true star in Leônidas. As hosts in 1950, a nation went into mourning when Uruguay beat them 2-1 in the deciding match, with the result that Brazil have not worn white-coloured shirts since. It was in Sweden in 1958 that they finally lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy after unearthing Pelé and Garrincha as they became the first team to win the World Cup in a different continent. Pelé’s injury in 1962 left Garrincha as the star man and the winger, as well as Pelé’s replacement, Amarildo, secured victory in Chile. The high point came in 1970 with the Jules Rimet Trophy claimed forever and the world dazzled by a team that won every game in unmatched style. The rest of the 70s were not so glorious, although they claimed third place in 1978.

Four years later, Brazil were again the entertainers but fell to Italian guile in a classic second-round encounter. Mexico 86 and Italia 90 were tales of unfulfilled promise and premature exits, but USA 94 saw Brazil, perhaps more cautious than before, able to win the World Cup trophy after beating Italy on penalties in the final in Pasadena. In 1998, they were favourites but disaster struck in Paris amid the infamous Ronaldo saga and they lost 3-0. Ronaldo achieved vindication in 2002, though, with two goals in the final to complete a remarkable comeback. Germany 2006 saw them again expected to cruise to glory but their malfunctioning superstars were dumped out by a resurgent France.

Qualification: Brazil won the South American qualifying tournament with ease, and could afford to lose and draw their last two matches with Bolivia and Venezuela respectively. Coach Dunga ignored those who criticised his style of play as Luis Fabiano starred in attack and Julio Cesar in goal.

During their campaign, they beat Argentina 3-1 away for the first time in 14 years, and they once again enter the finals tournament as a heavily-favoured team.

Qualifying record: P18, W9, D7, L2, F33, A11, Pts34.

Most appearances: Julio Cesar (18).

Top goalscorer: Luis Fabiano (9).

What to Make of Argentina?


JOHANNESBURG — It was difficult to determine who was more fired up after Argentina’s 3-1 victory over Mexico in the round of 16 last Sunday night, Carlos Tevez, who scored two goals to earn man of the match honors, or his coach, Diego Maradona.

Tevez was thrilled to put his imprint on the Albicelestes’ World Cup run. The son of Fuerte Apache is a fighter, who bleeds for his national team, and no other player, even among Argentina’s passionately committed stars, takes as much pride in his workmanship.

He’ll be a key player for Argentina against Germany this weekend in the quarterfinal. The tournament resumes Friday after a two-day break. Half the teams still competing are from South America, and none has as many interesting story lines as Argentina.

Will Lionel Messi get a goal?

The world’s best player has carved up defenses with his sharp runs. He has aided teammates with precise passes. And he’s also shown himself to be one tough little dude (he’s only 5 feet 6 inches).

“What is being done to Messi is a scandal,” Maradona said. “Every time he touches the ball, they kick him. They don’t even look for the ball, they look for his legs.”

Messi has been fouled 15 times, most of any player still competing in the tournament.

Earlier in the World Cup, Portugal Coach Carlos Queiroz complained his star, Cristiano Ronaldo, was also a target and didn’t get the protection from referees. He won’t need to worry about that any more; Ronaldo and Portugal said goodbye to South Africa on Tuesday night, care of Spain. Many people were not happy with Ronaldo’s salutation

Does Maradona go with a recovering Samuel? Or will he rely on Burdisso.

He scoffed at a reporter who dared to ask him. My guess: he has no idea what he’s going to do until the minute he does it.

In fact, Maradona had no interest in looking at his team’s match up with Germany a few days ago.

“That’s a ridiculously stupid question,” Maradona said. “Can’t you let me enjoy this win over Mexico.”

“I’ll start thinking about Germany tomorrow,” he said. “Write whatever you think I would about Germany.”

Team Profile: Germany

Appearances at finals:
(As East Germany)
1974 – Second round

(As West Germany)
1954 – Winners
1958 – Fourth place
1962 – Quarter-finals
1966 – Runners-up
1970 – Third place
1974 – Winners
1978 – Second round
1982 – Runners-up
1986 – Runners-up
1990 – Winners

(As Germany)
1934 – Third place
1938 – First round
1994 – Quarter-finals
1998 – Quarter-finals
2002 – Runners-up
2006 – Third place

Overall record at finals: Played 58, Won 37, Drawn 9, Lost 12.

Best performance: Winning the tournament in 1954, 1974 and 1990.

Most appearances at finals: Lothar Matthäus (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998) – 25.

Most goals at finals: Gerd Müller (1970, 1974) – 14.

World Cup high: Winning the World Cup on home turf in 1974 with a 2-1 win in the final to beat Johan Cruyff’s Netherlands, who were famed for their ‘total football’ and widely acknowledged as one of the greatest sides in history.

World Cup low: Losing in the 1966 final to England after a contentious goal from Geoff Hurst that may or may not have crossed the line at Wembley, depending on your geographical location. It was the opinion of Azerbaijani linesman Tofik Bakhramov that counted, though.

World Cup legend: Franz Beckenbauer was perhaps the finest sweeper in football history. Der Kaiser captained Germany to glory in 1974, managed the team that won the 1990 tournament and, for good measure, helped bring the World Cup to German soil as the key figure in the 2006 bid team.

The story so far: ‘Never write off the Germans’ is the old refrain – and with good reason. Reaching seven finals in their history, five times as West Germany before the reunification of the country, the Germans have reached the quarter-finals in every tournament since 1982 and are the very model of consistency.

Their first triumph came in the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland courtesy of a shock victory over the ‘Magical Magyars’ of Hungary, despite going 2-0 down to the team of Ferenc Puskas. The odds were upset once again in 1974 when Johan Cruyff’s Netherlands went a goal up in the final only to lose 2-1 as West Germany triumphed on home turf. A hat-trick of titles was complete when Andreas Brehme struck with five minutes remaining to defeat Argentina in the final of Italia 90 and confirm Germany as a nation with outstanding World Cup pedigree.

Qualification: Germany enjoyed an unbeaten qualifying campaign under Joachim Loew as they held off the challenge of Guus Hiddink’s Russia to secure top spot in Group Four. After starting their campaign in ominous fashion with a 6-0 hammering of Liechtenstein, the key to Germany’s qualification was their two victories over Russia, the second of which was a 1-0 win in Moscow in October that guaranteed their participation in the finals in South Africa.

Qualifying record: P10, W8, D2, L0, F26, A5, Pts26.

Most appearances: Philipp Lahm, Mario Gomez (10).

Top goalscorer: Miroslav Klose (7).

Brazil Keeps Winning Dunga’s Way


JOHANNESBURG — There are no points for artistry in soccer. There never were, yet some Brazilians cannot help thinking otherwise.

The manner of its overpowering 3-0 destruction of Chile at Ellis Park on Monday left little doubt that Brazil possesses the talents and the toughness to dismiss any opponent in any way it pleases.

But reverse those qualities. Make it the toughness and the talents, because this is without doubt the way Brazil’s coach, Dunga, has set out to win back the World Cup.

The first goal Monday was designed by Dunga — a set piece rehearsed a thousand times, a thundering header from a big, strong defender. The second turned a deep defense into a deadly attack in a matter of seconds, with the final pass and the finish delivered at such a quick pace that only the most skilled players could have accomplished it.

And the third goal, with Robinho’s burst of free spirit, was a treat allowed to the players only after the match was dead and buried.

That is Dunga’s soccer, and that is what makes Brazil the likely world champion for the sixth time, over Maradona’s cavalier Argentines, the cocksure Dutch, the cosmopolitan Germans and a Spanish squad that was still searching for its finery before its 1-0 victory over Portugal on Tuesday in its Round of 16 match.Dunga’s postgame comments were unconditional. He said it was wrong to believe that the Brazilians of the past could win without steel in the modern age…

And Dunga is Dunga. Win the power game first, then, if you must, indulge in the fantasy that hopeless romantics always associate with Brazil.

The truth is that this is Dunga’s Brazil, and he may very likely win the World Cup with it. The players at his disposal are good enough to go the distance whatever their style…

Team Profile: Netherlands

Appearances at finals:

1934 – First round
1938 – First round
1974 – Runners-up
1978 – Runners-up
1990 – Second round
1994 – Quarter-finals
1998 – Fourth place
2006 – Second round

Overall record at finals: Played 36, Won 16, Drawn 10, Lost 10.

Best performance: Runners-up in 1974 and 1978.

Most appearances at finals: Johnny Rep (1974, 1978), Ruud Krol (1974, 1978), Wim Jansen (1974, 1978) – 14.

Most goals at finals: Johnny Rep (1974, 1978) – 7.

World Cup high: Bringing ‘total football’ to the World Cup in 1974 when, in beating both Brazil and Argentina in the second group stage, they made it to the final despite it being a first appearance in the tournament for 36 years.

World Cup low: The ugly incident involving Netherland’s Frank Rijkaard and Germany’s Rudi Völler, resulting in both players being sent off and Rijkaard spitting in Voller’s hair.

World Cup legend: Johan Cruyff, who, despite only playing in the 1974 finals, was central to the country’s brand of ‘brilliant orange’, which catapulted the Dutch from obscurity to World Cup entertainers in the 70s.

The story so far: Netherlands’ World Cup history is surprisingly sparse considering their modern reputation. After taking part in the first two tournaments, they failed to qualify again until the 70s, when they lost in two consecutive finals.

Even after that, the Dutch missed out on the finals in 1982 and 1986 and, later, in 2002. They have always promised much yet there is still the feeling that the Dutch have generally under-achieved in world football.

Qualification: Netherlands found their route to the finals in faultless fashion, becoming the first European side to qualify for South Africa in June 2009. They were handed an easy group with just four other nations, none of which had qualified for any finals tournament since 2000. The Dutch had a 100% record in Group Nine, but were not exactly prolific in scoring 17 goals in 8 games. Qualification was virtually assured by back-to-back 3-0 and 4-0 home wins over Scotland and Macedonia in the first qualifiers of 2009.

Qualifying record: P8, W8, D0, L0, F17, A2, Pts24.

Most appearances: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Andre Ooijer, Dirk Kuyt, Joris Mathijsen, Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (8).

Top goalscorers: Dirk Kuyt, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (3).

World Cup 2010: Cristiano Ronaldo is a ‘broken man’ after Portugal defeat to Spain

Cristiano Ronaldo is inconsolable following Portugal’s 1-0 defeat to Spain in the World Cup second round but coach Carlos Queiroz believes his team will bounce back stronger.


The European champions won an intriguing World Cup second-round contest 1-0 ending Portugal‘s campaign which had so much expectation, especially after the 7-0 win against North Korea.

“We hope that in the next World Cup we can perform with a greater degree of ambition and keep alive our motto of playing to win.”

“I wanted us to be able to leave the field with our heads held high, and I think we accomplished this.

“We always have as our main goal to win. We also want to have an honourable performance to dignify Portuguese football.

Portugal defended well, but they were ultimately overwhelmed by the sheer amount of possession and territory play Spain commanded.

“We wanted to do well and when we compete at this level, if we manage to obtain second or third, it is not satisfactory,” he said.

The statistics spoke for themselves, with Spain amasing 19 shots to Portugal’s nine and having 61 percent of the possession.

Real Madrid’s Ronaldo, the most expensive footballer in the world, was left broken, refusing to speak to the media after the match.

His only remark was to a TV crew when he said: “How can I explain it (the defeat). Ask the question of Carlos Queiroz.” He was roundly criticised at home for that and for not assuming his responsibilities as the national captain.

In a statement issued later, he said he was deeply sad.

“I feel a broken man, completely disconsolate, frustrated and an unimaginable sadness,” he said.

“When I said ‘put the question to the coach’, it is just because Carlos Queiroz was holding a press conference.

“I was not in a position to explain what was what. I am a human being, and like any human being I suffer and I have the right to suffer alone.

“I know that I am the captain, and I have always assumed and will assume my responsibilities.”

Queiroz said Portugal would return home and work at becoming an even better side.

Team Profile: Spain

Appearances at finals:
1934 – Quarter-finals
1950 – Fourth place
1962 – First round
1966 – First round
1978 – First round
1982 – Second round
1986 – Quarter-finals
1990 – Second round
1994 – Quarter-finals
1998 – First round
2002 – Quarter-finals
2006 – Second round

Overall record at finals: Played 49, Won 22, Drawn 12, Lost 15.

Best performance: Reaching the final group round in the 1950 tournament, finishing fourth.

Most appearances at finals: Andoni Zubizarreta (1986, 1990, 1994, 1998) – 16.

Most goals at finals: Estanislao Basora (1950), Emilio Butragueno (1986, 1990), Fernando Hierro (1994, 1998, 2002), Fernando Morientes (1998, 2002), Raul (1998, 2002, 2006) – 5.

World Cup high: Emilio ‘The Vulture’ Butragueno tearing apart a superb Denmark side including Michael Laudrup, Soren Lerby and Preben Elkjaer in the 1986 second round, scoring four goals in a stunning 5-1 demolition of one of Europe’s finest teams.

World Cup low: The 2002 campaign ending in acrimony and controversy as a succession of dubious decisions saw them lose on penalties to host nation South Korea in the quarter-finals. Jose Antonio Camacho’s men were furious after two apparently good goals were disallowed.

World Cup legend: Fernando Hierro. The Real Madrid icon is Spain’s joint top scorer in World Cups and is second only to Zubizarretta in terms of appearances, with 12 to his name. The defender represented his country with distinction at three finals, but failed to progress past the quarter-finals.

The story so far: It is one of the more curious statistics in World Cup history that, since their fourth-placed finish in 1950, Spain have never come closer than the quarter-finals of football’s greatest competition.

Star names have come and gone and accusations of ‘bottling it’ have become a perennial stick with which to beat the country, but maybe, just maybe, Spain will end their long wait for a World Cup triumph in South Africa.

After decades of under-achievement and acute disappointment, La Furia Roja have real aspirations of following in the footsteps of West Germany and France by holding both the World Cup and European Championship titles at the same time.

Qualification: Spain enjoyed an impeccable campaign under Vicente del Bosque, winning ten out of ten qualifiers. Relying almost entirely on the squad that triumphed at Euro 2008, particularly top scorer David Villa, Spain were imperious and enjoyed heavy wins over Armenia (4-0), Belgium (5-0) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (5-2) to confirm the suspicion that they will be real contenders in South Africa. Their qualification campaign also witnessed the emergence of young stars such as Juan Mata and Gerard Pique, both of whom scored three goals.

Qualifying record: P10, W10, D0, L0, F28, A5, Pts30.

Most appearances: Iker Casillas, Joan Capdevila, Xavi (9).

Top goalscorer: David Villa (7).

World Cup 2010: Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger brands Argentina ‘whingers’

Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger has lit the fuse for a potentially explosive World Cup quarter-final with Argentina by launching an extraordinary attack on their South American opponents.

Telegraph – By Ian Chadband

Schweinsteiger lambasted the Argentine players for provoking referees, using gamesmanship and disrespecting their opponents, suggesting that their behaviour was part of their national character.

The key German midfielder even had a go at Argentina fans, claiming they had taken seats belonging to Mexico supporters during the last 16 match in Johannesburg.

Schweinsteiger’s inflammatory comments stem from his bitter memories of the equivalent quarter-final clash at the last World Cup on home soil when Germany’s victory on penalties was marred by ugly post-match scenes, with players and coaches from both teams clashing on the pitch.

“The Argentinians provoke and are always whingeing to the referee to try and change his opinion. We shouldn’t let ourselves be affected by their provocations,” said Schweinsteiger.

“It starts before the match. You see their body language, how they gesticulate, how they try to influence the referee. That is not part of the game. That is a lack of respect. They are like that. We should not be provoked by them. I hope the referee will pick this up.”

Schweinsteiger said the half-time melee involving Argentina’s players during the last-16 match against Mexico showed they had “no respect”…]

Team Profile: Paraguay

Appearances at finals:
1930 – First round
1934 – Withdrew from competition
1950 – First round
1958 – First round
1986 – Second round
1998 – Second round
2002 – Second round
2006 – First round

Overall record at finals: Played 19, Won 6, Drawn 7, Lost 9.

Best performance: Second round in 1986, 1998, 2002

Most appearances at finals: Carlos Gamarra (1998, 2002, 2006) – 11.

Most goals at finals: Nelson Cuevas (2002, 2006) – 3.

World Cup high: A 3-1 win over Nigeria, who had just defeated Spain and Bulgaria, at France 98.

World Cup low: Losing 7-3 to France at Sweden 58.

World Cup legend: Jose Luis Chilavert is one of the biggest stars in Paraguayan soccer and was outstanding in 1998 and 2002 when he led the teams that came very close to eliminating France and Germany.

The story so far: The Paraguayan national team’s stock is on a high at present. They are now widely considered one of the strongest teams in South America after qualifying for their fourth consecutive World Cup.

After featuring in only one World Cup in 40 years, Paraguay put up decent performances in the past three tournaments, especially in 1998 and 2002, when they were eliminated in the last 16 by teams that ended up reaching the final: France and Germany. After the experience of previous World Cups, the current generation of Paraguayan footballers will now hope to finally go beyond the second round.

Qualification: Paraguay qualified without any major problems and with two games to play, having beating Argentina in Asuncion. The team, coached by Gerardo Martino, was the most impressive in the first half of qualifying, when they won seven out of ten games, including an outstanding 1-0 win over Brazil at home. Although they failed to keep up that high level of performance in the second half of the competition, they were still able to comfortably reach their fourth consecutive World Cup.

Qualifying record: P18, W10, D3, L5, F24, A16, Pts33.

Most appearances: Justo Villar (17).

Top goalscorers: Salvador Cabañas (6).

Team Profile: Uruguay

Appearances at finals:
1930 – Winners
1950 – Winners
1954 – Fourth place
1962 – First round
1966 – Quarter-finals
1970 – Fourth place
1974 – First round
1986 – Second round
1990 – Second round
2002 – First round

Overall record: Played 40, Won 15, Drawn 10, Lost 15.

Best performance: They won the championship in their first two appearances, in 1930 and 1950.

Most appearances at finals: Ladislao Mazurkiewicz (1966, 1970, 1974) – 11.

Most goals at finals: Oscar Míguez, Juan Alberto Schiaffino (1950, 1954) – 7.World Cup high: The ‘Maracanazo‘ in 1950, a 2-1 victory against Brazil in the championship-deciding game. Juan Alberto Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia scored Uruguay’s goals in the second half after Friaça had put the hosts ahead.

World Cup low: Their humiliating 6-1 defeat at the hands of Denmark in Mexico 1986.

World Cup legend: Juan Alberto Schiaffino is considered the best Uruguayan footballer of all-time. He is most fondly remembered for his great performance in 1950, where he led his squad to their most memorable achievement, but some feel he was even better in the 1954 finals. As a man of Italian ancestry, he joined AC Milan in 1954 and spent the final years of his international career playing for Italy.

The story so far: During the early days of organised international football, Uruguay were a true world power. Prior to the creation of the World Cup, they had won Olympic gold in both 1924 and 1928. Since they were the best team of their era, they were awarded the privilege of organising the first World Cup, which they won with relative ease.

Due to political reasons, they were absent from the next two World Cups, but they came back with a bang in 1950 as they achieved one of the biggest shocks in the tournament’s history by defeating Brazil at the Estádio do Maracanã to take the trophy, a feat that came to be known as ‘Maracanazo‘. Despite a couple of decent runs in 1954 and 1970, they have since been unable to relive their early glories.

Qualification: As has been the way of things during recent years, Uruguay had to suffer to reach their 11th World Cup final. Defeat to Argentina in their final CONMEBOL qualifier took them into a play-off with fourth-placed CONCACAF side Costa Rica. They defeated the Ticos 1-0 away and then drew the second leg 1-1 at the legendary Estadio Centenario in Montevideo to grab the last available spot in South Africa. Qualifying record: P20, W7, D7, L6, F30, A21, Pts 28.Most appearances: Luis Suárez (19).

Top goalscorer: Diego Forlán (7).

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