Argentina have won more international football titles than any other nation, including two World Cups and 14 Copa America titles. Over the years some fantastic players have graced the famous blue and white shirt but none greater than Diego Maradona.
The little maestro's performance in Argentina's 1986 World Cup win is perhaps the greatest showing by any player in an international tournament. He almost single-handedly guided his country to victory with a series of virtuoso performances including scoring two of the most talked about goals of all time in the quarter final against England.
The first, his infamous Hand of God moment, a clear handball putting Argentina ahead, may have been disputed, but there was no arguing with the mesmerising individual brilliance of his second that day, later voted Goal of the Century by FIFA. Starting inside his own half, Maradona weaved through almost the entire England team before rounding Peter Shilton to score.
The influence of Maradona on Argentinian football is hard to overstate. Since his retirement there has been a never-ending search for the 'next Maradona' to wear the famous number ten shirt. Many players have tried, notably Ariel Ortega, Pablo Aimar, Juan Roman Riquelme and the current star of Argentinian football, Lionel Messi.
The result has been that the Argentine team, though full of excellent players, now revolves around a playmaker who is the focal point of the side as a matter of tradition. They seemed to have cracked the problem at the 2006 World Cup with Riquelme playing as a withdrawn playmaker and Messi further up the field. In the group stage the team looked majestic, hammering Serbia & Montenegro 6-0 but they stuttered in the knockout stages and went out to hosts Germany at the quarter finals stage.
Four years later, at South Africa’s 2010 tournament, the Argentines turned again to the man responsible for their greatest footballing triumphs, with Maradona leading the team this time as manager. Though widely tipped to win, with Messi in scintillating form for Barcelona, Maradona’s men bowed out in humiliating fashion, losing 4-0 to Joachim Low’s Germany.
So the search goes on for a return to Argentina’s World Cup-winning glory days, but with the talent of Messi and players like Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez at their disposal, Albicelestes fans may not have long to wait.