- Lionel Messi – Goals: 81
- Gabriel Batistuta – Goals: 54
- Sergio Aguero – Goals: 41
- Hernan Crespo – Goals: 35
- Diego Maradona – Goals: 34
Argentina National Football Team History
South American Championship Success
Argentina has one of the most successful national soccer teams of all-time. La Albiceleste, or the White and Sky Blue, played their first match in 1902, defeating rivals Uruguay 6-0 in Montevideo. The Argentina national football teamwon their first trophy by defeating Uruguay 2-0 in the 1906 Copa Lipton.
La Albiceleste won their first major trophy when they hosted the 1921 South American Championship. Wins over Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay clinched the title, which Argentina would also win in 1925, 1927 and 1929.
The first World Cup, held in Uruguay in 1930, also marked the first Argentina World Cup appearance. Argentina won all three of their group stage matches, vs. France, Mexico and Chile. They beat the USA in the semifinals 6-1 but fell to Uruguay 4-2 in the final.
In 1934, the World Cup followed a single-elimination format and Argentina lost their only match to Sweden, 3-2. Argentina withdrew from the 1938, 1950 and 1954 World Cups but did manage to win four South American Championships from 1941-1947 under manager Guillermo Stabile.
During that period, the Argentina vs. Brazil rivalry heated up. It culminated in Brazilian Jair Pinto fracturing Albiceleste captain Jose Salomon’s tibia and fibula in the 1946 South American Championship final. Argentina went on to win the match 2-0 but Salomon never played professional soccer again.
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Argentina National Football Team Records
Argentina national football team also won South American Championships in 1955 and 1957 and the ‘57 team was particularly notable. They scored 24 goals in five matches and Humberto Maschio earned the golden boot, with nine goals.
La Albiceleste’s return to World Cup play in 1958 is referred to as “El desastre de suecia” or the Sweden Disaster. Argentina lost two of their three matches and suffered one of their worst defeats ever in their final match vs. Czechoslovakia.
The team bounced back to win the 1959 South American Championship, which was Stabile’s last trophy as coach. Under Jose Maria Minella, Argentina scored an impressive 3-0 victory over archrivals Brazil en route to winning the 1964 Nation’s Cup. It was the first time Brazil were defeated on home soil since 1950.
At the 1966 World Cup, Argentinas national football team finished second in their group and were eliminated by hosts and eventual champions England in the quarterfinal. It was a controversial match as midfielder Antonio Rattin was sent off for dissent despite the fact that the German-speaking referee couldn’t understand Spanish.
The only World Cup Argentina failed to qualify for in which it entered was in 1970. Four years later, La Albiceleste qualified but could only manage to make the second round. That prompted a change of coaches and Cesar Luis Menotti proved to be the right man for the job.
World Cup Glory and the Maradona Era
In 1977, a 16-year old Diego Maradona made his Argentina debut but he wasn’t selected by Menotti for the 1978 World Cup. The ‘78 World Cup was the first one hosted by Argentina and the team rose to the occasion.
Led by defender Daniel Passarella and striker Mario Kempes, Argentina managed to secure their first World Cup win as Kempes scored two goals in a 3-1 extra time win over the Netherlands. Kempes was the top scorer at the tournament, with six goals.
The failure to live up to their billing as favorites at the 1982 World Cup, Maradona’s first, led Menotti to step down as coach. Carlos Bilardo took over and his tenure got off to an uneasy start but there was one reason to be hopeful for the 1986 World Cup. That was Maradona and his skyrocketing importance to the national team.
Mexico 1986 was the World Cup of Maradona as he scored some of the most famous goals in soccer history, won the Golden Ball and finished with the most assists. His incredible play led Argentina to their second World Cup win as they defeated West Germany 3-2 in the final.
The 1990 World Cup didn’t match the heights of 1986 for Argentina national football team, but one of their finest wins came during the tournament. La Albiceleste defeated Brazil for the first time at a World Cup as they won 1-0 in the Round of 16 from a Claudio Caniggia goal. Argentina made the final but narrowly lost 1-0 to West Germany.
1990 was Bilardo’s last tournament with Argentina and Alfio Basile was appointed head coach in 1991. His Albiceleste team won the South American Championship, or Copa America, for the first time in 32 years. Gabriel Batistuta was the top scorer at the tournament with six goals.
Maradona returned to help Argentina qualify for the 1994 World Cup but failed a drug test during the tournament, which deflated morale. After winning their first two matches, Argentina lost their next two and went out at the Round of 16.
Post-Maradona and Messi
Even though Maradona retired, a Diego Simeone-led team at the 1998 World Cup had high expectations. They finished the group stage without conceding a goal and beat England in penalties in the round of 16; however, the Albiceleste went out in the next round vs. the Netherlands on a famous Dennis Bergkamp goal.
Argentina were eliminated in the group stage for the first time in 40 years in 2002. After 2002’s disappointment, they made the quarterfinals in 2006 but went out to Germany in penalties.
Maradona returned to coach the national team and his Argentina once again made the quarterfinals. For the second time in a row, Germany eliminated Argentina as La Albiceleste were embarrassed 4-0.
In 2014, Argentina national football team made the World Cup final for the first time since 1990 but they lost to Germany for a third consecutive World Cup. Mario Gotze scored the winning goal for the Germans in extra time. However, Lionel Messi was named the tournament’s best player.
Argentina lost in successive Copa America finals in 2015 and 2016. Messi broke the record for most Argentina goals all-time during the 2016 edition.
The 2018 World Cup was a disappointing one for La Albiceleste as they lost 3-0 to Croatia in the group stage and were eliminated in the round of 16 by France. Argentina held a 2-1 lead vs. France but conceded three consecutive times.
In 2021, Messi won his first major trophy with Argentina national football team as they defeated rivals Brazil in the 2021 Copa America final. With a win vs. Italy in the 2022 Finalissima, Argentina set their record for longest unbeaten run, 32 games.
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