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Jun 9, 2014

Argentina's World Cup predictions

After four years of waiting, the time has come. Another World Cup is here, and our bloggers across all 32 competing countries have each predicted the fate that awaits their team. The country's Outlook gives a general view of its situation ahead of the tournament, while Pitfalls takes a look at any potential problems. Each blogger will also predict the top scorer and breakout star and suggest how far that nation can go.

OUTLOOK

Argentina probably wish their World Cup kicked off just a few days later than Sunday; Gonzalo Higuaín, Ezequiel Garay and Pablo Zabaleta did not play in either of the side's two friendlies, all carrying knocks -- though they are expected to be fit in time for Sunday's match against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Better news is the form of those who are playing; a 3-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago and a 2-0 win over Slovenia were both comfortable victories, and Lionel Messi in particular looks sharp and raring to go.

PITFALLS

Aside from those injuries, which the technical staff insist aren't causing too many sleepless nights, not much. It would be nice if Marcos Rojo woke up one morning to find he had been blessed overnight with the abilities of Juan Pablo Sorín in the latter's pomp, but even Rojo -- the side's weakest link when everyone's fit -- did a good job at wing back against Slovenia. The mood is of cautious optimism as overall preparation went well.

STAR SCORER

Higuaín. He was second top scorer for Argentina in qualifying, behind Messi, but if I placed a bet on the top scorer at the tournament itself, it would probably be on Higuaín. Messi is going to come under close scrutiny from opposing defences, and the service he, Sergio Agüero, Zabaleta and Ángel di María get in to Higuaín will be key. Higuaín is playing as the main centre forward in a side with a terrifying array of attacking options. He has also bagged 21 goals in 34 appearances overall for Argentina and managed four goals in as many games in 2010.

Gonzalo Higuain will occupy the centre forward position for Argentina at the World Cup.
Gonzalo Higuain will occupy the centre forward position for Argentina at the World Cup.

WILD CARD

I doubt there will be many real surprises from Argentina -- the main players are too well-known globally for that -- but I'm going to pick Di María on the basis that, as I've written already for ESPN FC, he is a key player both in attack and midfield but operates in the shadows for many purely by virtue of the fact he's not Messi. It might not be a surprise after his recent form for Madrid, but he will be key all the same.

PREDICTION: Semifinals

They have a relatively kind draw, a settled group of friends who also happen to be more than decent players, one of the most tactically astute managers in the tournament and an attack that would be considered arguably the most dangerous in the competition even if it didn't include Messi. Even goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who barely played for Monaco this season, has kept five straight clean sheets for Argentina.