Paddy Power

Paddy Power

February 24, 2010 03:30 ET

How Far Will Diego Maradona Take Argentina at the World Cup?

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - Feb. 24, 2010) - Twice the winners of the World Cup, the tournament wouldn't be quite the same without the presence of Argentina, one of the world's most successful international teams. However, the recent history of Argentinean football has been a rocky one and with the maverick Diego Maradona in charge of the national side, it's impossible to predict what will happen to the 1978 and 1986 champions in South Africa.

After defeat to Chile in CONMEBOL qualifying, the Argentinean FA made the controversial decision to replace Alfredo Basile with their greatest ever player – a man with little or no coaching experience. Handing Diego Maradona the job of guiding Argentina to a World Cup can be likened to giving the England job to Gazza, and the diminutive Argentinean legend didn't get off to the most auspicious of starts.

After a record 6-1 international defeat at the hands of Bolivia, the former champions struggled through South American qualifying, only squeaking into the automatic qualification places courtesy of an injury time goal from a 36 year old playing his first international match in a decade.

You'll also be unsurprised to learn that Maradona's tactics (three at the back) and personnel (a recall for the aging Juan Sebastian Veron, for example) have been met with some criticism. He also proceeded to litter a live post-match press conference with some industrial language and was handed a two month ban for his outburst.

However, bookmaker Paddy Power who offer a range of World Cup odds on Argentina's performance in South Africa make Maradona's side 9/1 fourth favourites to win the 2010 World Cup. They make it 5/2 that Argentina are eliminated in the last sixteen or, again, 5/2 that they go out in the quarter finals.

Despite their rocky qualifying (although history points to their difficult qualifying campaign in 1986 when they went on to lift the trophy) and the risky choice of manager, Argentina does boast one of the strongest squads in world football. Not only can they call on the World Player of the Year, Lionel Messi, but also attackers of the calibre of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuan and Diego Milito. 

Add to that the likes of Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Mascherano, Javier Zanetti, Gabriel Heinze and Walter Samuel and, on paper, Argentina should be a match for anyone. They do have weak areas, however, particularly in goal where Maradona has used six goalkeepers in the last 12 months.

Whilst there is no denying the strength in depth of their squad (and their previous tournament record) it's questionable whether Argentina can win the World Cup in South Africa. Whilst Diego Maradona would cement his position as a true Argentinean icon if he could lead his team to glory, some maverick antics and a public meltdown look, sadly, the more likely outcome.

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