Argentina prepare for the 2015 Copa America in Chile where they will look to win their first major trophy in 22 years.
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (JUNE 5, 2015) (REUTERS) – Lionel Messi’s Argentina will attempt to end a 22-year wait for a major title by adding the Copa America to the remarkable array of trophies the little maestro has won with Barcelona.
Argentina will be hoping after their defeat in the World Cup final in Brazil last year that they can repeat history.
They travelled to Chile in 1991 having lost the 1990 World Cup final in Italy and won the Copa America, which they retained two years later in Ecuador.
Argentina’s captain believes his team can gain from the experience acquired from so many setbacks, including defeats by Brazil in the 2004 and 2007 Copa America finals.
Helping Messi will be Juventus striker Carlos Tevez, back in the side after his missed penalty in a shootout was the last kick an Argentina player took at a Copa America, handing Uruguay their quarter-final victory in 2011.
Gerardo Martino is Argentina’s second coach since Sergio Batista lost his job after that defeat, having succeeded World Cup coach Alejandro Sabella last year, and has brought an attacking imprint to the team.
He has a squad full of talent and an enviable “problem” deciding between Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain for the central striker’s role.
But he will be waiting for Messi and Tevez until almost the last minute after they meet on opposite sides on Saturday when Barca face Juve in the Champions League final in Berlin.
The pair, plus Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano and Juventus midfielder Roberto Pereyra, will join the squad in Chile the next day, only six days before Argentina open their Group B campaign against 2011 runners-up Paraguay in La Serena.
Profile of the Argentina team for the Copa America:
Previous appearances: 39 (first in 1916)
Best performance: winners 14 times – 1921, 1925, 1927, 1929, 1937, 1941, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1991, 1993
Drawn in Group B with Uruguay, Paraguay and Jamaica
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Came to the job with an impressive CV having steered Paraguay to their best ever World Cup performance, reaching the quarter-finals in South Africa in 2010, then the Copa America final in 2011, winning the Argentine league title with Newell’s Old Boys in 2013 and coaching Barcelona in 2013/14.
He likes his teams to take the game to the opposition, pressing when they lose the ball and playing in their half and admits to worrying when the play goes down Argentina’s end.
Martino is not looking for his team to play like Barcelona, which was 2011 Copa America coach Sergio Batista’s obsession, or as defensively as Alejandro Sabella’s side at the World Cup.
He has a good relationship with team captain Messi, enhanced by the fact they both hail from the same city, Rosario, and started out at the same club, Newell’s.
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The world’s best who, after getting over the disappointment of losing the 2014 World Cup final to Germany, has had a brilliant season leading Barcelona to the La Liga title, King’s Cup victory and Champions League final.
He has scored some of his best goals this year, not least the opener in the King’s Cup final against Athletic Bilbao, and laid on many for fellow forwards Neymar and Luis Suarez and shown maturing leadership qualities.
His presence alone makes Argentina favourites but he has team mates who can be brilliant too on their day in Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria, capable of inspiring the country to their first title since 1993.
Messi played in the 2007 final which Argentina lost to Brazil in Venezuela and the side that lost to Uruguay on penalties in the 2011 quarter-finals when he was struggling to replicate his Barcelona form for his county.
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FIFA world ranking June 2015: 3
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Sampdoria), Nahuel Guzman (UANL Tigres), Mariano Andujar (Napoli)
Defenders: Facundo Roncaglia (Genoa), Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis (both Manchester City), Ezequiel Garay (Zenit St Petersburg), Nicolas Otamendi (Valencia), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Milton Casco (Newell’s Old Boys)
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Roberto Pereyra (Juventus), Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors), Angel Di Maria (Manchester United), Erik Lamela (Tottenham Hotspur), Javier Pastore (Paris Saint-Germain)
Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Carlos Tevez (Juventus), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris Saint-Germain)