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Team Profile: Argentina

GettyImagesArgentina's first title came in 1978. Mario Kempes scored twice in the final.

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).