World Cup 2022 team guides part 9: Argentina | World Cup 2022

This article is part of the Guardian’s World Cup 2022 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organizations from the 32 countries who qualified. theguardian.com is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 20 November.

The plan

This is the first time Argentina arrive at a World Cup in peace. Excited, yes, but also calm. The greatest strength is the team’s collectiveness, the fact that everyone works hard for each other and that has been highlighted again and again over the past four years. Everyone in the team – in the squad in fact – knows their role: this is a well-oiled machine.

The current cycle began towards the end of 2018 after Jorge Sampaoli’s disastrous spell in charge, which included a last-16 exit from the Russia World Cup and off- and on-field problems. Lionel Scaloni, who had been an assistant to Sampaoli, took over on an interim basis – together with Pablo Aimar – and the former Deportivo La Coruña and Lazio player never looked back.

His contract was extended to include the 2019 Copa América, in which Argentina finished third, and finally to include the same tournament two years later as well as the World Cup. Argentina have not always performed well under Scaloni and there were times when the team looked unsure of how to play, confused even, but slowly things came together.

Scaloni discarded some players who were coming towards the end of their careers and stood by his decisions to form a cohesive unit that goes into the World Cup undefeated in 35 games, only two short of the record set by Roberto Mancini’s Italy between 2018 and 2021. Scaloni was criticized in the beginning but that noise has gone away now.

Part of that Argentina run included winning the 2021 Copa America, the country’s first major title for 28 years. Beating Brazil in the final at the Maracanã made the triumph even sweeter. In June Argentina won the “Finalissima” against Italy 3-0 at Wembley with an utterly dominant performance.

The team has a mix of experience and youth and, of course, Lionel Messi. Argentina go to Qatar with the aim of winning the World Cup, it is a dream for the whole country and, above all, “La Pulga”. There are many in Argentina who feel football owes Messi a World Cup.