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Remembering when Argentina had all the world’s best forwards in the same World Cup squad… and lost in the quarter-finals

Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and co racked up 172 league goals the season before the World Cup in South Africa... so why didn't they win it?

Cast your mind back to the 2010 World Cup.

Remember how intimidating Argentina’s forward crop were?

Diego Maradona took six forwards with him to South Africa and together they made up the greatest strike force in the world bar none.

Before we go into why Argentina didn’t lift the trophy with ease, let’s quickly run through each of the extraordinarily talented forward options…

The miracle

Argentina’s greatest ever player is definitely in this photo were just not sure where

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Argentina’s greatest ever player is definitely in this photo were just not sure where

You may already be vaguely aware that a chap called Lionel Messi is rather good at kicking leather sacs of air around rectangular fields of grass.

The Barcelona superstar won four Ballon d’Ors consecutively between 2009 and 2012.

Messi warmed up for the World Cup with a gentlemanly 47 goals in all competitions.

A useful No10 to have, put it that way.

The poacher

Higuain in his slimmer days

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Higuain in his slimmer days

Gonzalo Higuain outscored Real Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo in La Liga the season prior to the 2010 World Cup.

He bagged 27 goals in 32 games as he let European audiences know of his natural goalscoring ability.

He was Maradona’s fox in the box and was appropriately given the No9 shirt.

The bulldog

Let’s all remember the Tevez that existed pre-Chinese Super League

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Let’s all remember the Tevez that existed pre-Chinese Super League

Rarely have we seen a more ferociously competitive forward as Carlos Tevez.

No matter which team had possession, he made life hell for defenders.

Another in form – he scored 29 goals in all competitions for Man City having made the switch across town from local rivals Man United.

The future

Junior…

PA:Press Association
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Junior…

A 22-year-old Sergio Aguero also made the cut.

He was still at Atletico Madrid back in 2010 and though his talent was raw it was also undeniable.

Arguably the best finisher of the lot.

The treble-winner

They should have built the team around this guy

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They should have built the team around this guy

Diego Milito had just fired Inter Milan to an historic treble.

A month before the start of the tournament, his double against Bayern Munich in the Champions League capped off phenomenal season in which he scored 30 goals in total.

Many believe he should have been first-choice with either Higuain or Tevez making way.

The master

One of Argentina’s favourite sons… and Diego Maradona

Reuters
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One of Argentina’s favourite sons… and Diego Maradona

Martin Palermo was very much the hero back home.

Whereas the others all did their best work in Europe, he had already established himself as a Boca Juniors legend on home soil.

At 35-years-old his experience balanced out the youthful exuberance of Aguero and Messi.

His record for the national team ended up as nine goals in 15 games  several of which were substitute appearances) which suggests he perhaps deserved more chances.

So how did they do?

A reminder of the players in the squad who weren’t world-class forwards

AP
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A reminder of the players in the squad who weren’t world-class forwards

Maradona’s formation of choice meant Messi operated just behind Higuain and Tevez with Aguero the go-to substitute in the final 15 minutes.

Argentina won all their group games with Higuain bagging a hat-trick against South Korea in a 4-1 win.

Palermo scored a late goal against an infuriatingly defensive Greece to ensure they topped group and all looked well heading into the knockout stages.

Then what?

With all eyes on Messi, Tevez had a field day

EPA
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With all eyes on Messi, Tevez had a field day

The irresistible forward unit clicked in the round of 16 with a 3-1 win over Mexico, although they did benefit from some debatable decisions from the officials.

Efrain Flores instructed his men to nullify the threat of Messi but in doing so they allowed Tevez too much space and the City man punished them with a brace.

Higuain scored the other, taking his tally to four goals in three games, and it seemed as if Argentina would power their way to the final through sheer firepower.

Enter Germany

Look how happy they were before playing for Arsenal crushed their spirit

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Look how happy they were before playing for Arsenal crushed their spirit

Argentina’s exit was painful to watch.

An inspired Mesut Ozil dictated the game as Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller ran riot in the most-anticipated quarter-final.

Up against Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker, Jerome Boateng and unexpected goalscorer Arne Freidrich, Argentina’s abundance of finishers were found wanting.

By the end of the game, Messi, Higuain, Tevez and Aguero were all on the field but Manuel Neuer barely broke sweat on his way to a clean sheet.

Conclusions?

Not so easy, is it?

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Not so easy, is it?

Forwards alone don’t make up a World Cup-winning squad.

Argentina’s six front men may have scored 172 goals between them the season leading up to the tournament but their squad lacked balance and Maradona’s erratic nature caused confusion in the ranks.

Four years later they made it to the final in Rio with Messi, Higuain and Aguero the survivors of the 2010 crop of forwards but a Mario Gotze goal in extra-time broke Argentine hearts.

Next year the same trio will be there again and this time they’ll probably have Paulo Dybala, Mauro Icardi and Lucas Alario for company in what will be another tremendous attacking unit.

Can they go one better than 2014?

Only time will tell…

The best forward in the Premier League made his debut just a month after his 15th birthday