In a world, where every four years, 32 nations gather to determine a champion, only one team can hoist the World Cup trophy. [Cue the massive explosions.]
With apologies to "Iron Man 2," "Twilight" and whatever other blockbusters are headed to theaters this summer, none of them can compare to the most dramatic event of 2010: The World Cup.
The World Cup, in addition to being the only truly world championship outside of the Olympic Games, is the only tournament capable of providing the full range of human emotion:Anger, awe, boredom, depression, disgust, embarrassment, euphoria, frustration, guilt, misery, pride, rage and surprise
. The best screenwriters couldn't script some of those things.
To get you ready for the drama that will start unfolding on June 11 in South Africa, The Star and The Full 90 will introduce you to the teams, the key performers, what to look for and what to expect in this year's Cup.
Now, onto one of the favorites to win it all, provided they fire their manager and/or figure out how they should be setup before June arrives...
ArgentinaGroup B THE BASICS
• Nickname: Albicelestes (white and blue sky)
• Colors: White and light blue
• FIFA Ranking: 7
• How They Got Here: Finished fourth in South American qualifying, with six losses.
• World Cup Pedigree: 14 World Cups, winners ('78 as hosts and '86), runners-up ('30, '90), quarterfinals ('66, '98, '06). THE PLOT
Can a fallen hero salvage his reputation and harness the talent of the most talented team in the tournament and bring honor and glory to his country where he is beloved?THE DIRECTOR
Where to begin? Maradona should have been the greatest player in history. He came close
. But he was the architect of his own undoing. After leading Argentina to a glorious (and controversial) victory in 1986, he was suspended from football for 15 months in 1991 and booted out of the '94 World Cup after testing positive for ephedrine. He then ballooned to an unhealthy weight and many suspected he was on the verge of death early last decade. He announced in 2007 that he had quit drinking and using drugs. He took over as manager of Argentina in 2008. The team has been, to say the least, unspectacular. They lost six times in qualifying, including a 6-1 drubbing in Boliva. He used 78 players in qualifying, never using the same lineup twice. Noted play-makers like Juan Riquelme decided to retire rather than play for Diego. It's unsure whether world-class midfielder Esteban Cambiasso will even make the final World Cup roster.LEADING MAN
Thousands upon thousands of words have been heaped upon the floppy-haired wizard. I won't spill any more. After all, I think Ray Hudson said it best when he said: "What he is is like something out of Greek mythology, man. A little short-legged bull, Lionel Messi, covered with eyes." Or "Messi is to his team what M are to E.T." Ray Hudson is a remarkable man. A global treasure.SUPPORTING CAST
Javier Mascherano (midfielder, Liverpool) is a tireless worker and excellent distributor who's had a bit of an off season (like most of Liverpool) in the Premiership; Carlos Tevez (forward, Manchester City) is a bulldog with the ball and an absolute terror with it in the box. He's scored 23 times with Manchester City after falling out of favor with the Manchester United brass; Javier Zanetti (defender, Inter Milan) is a veteran of two World Cups ('98 and '02) but was controversially left out of the '06 team. He will anchor the aging defense from his spot at left back; Esteban Cambiasso
(midfielder, Inter Milan) the bald-headed defensive midfielder capped off a 23-pass build up to one of the finest goals in World Cup history by delivering a clever backheel in the box (video is down below), but he might not be part of this squad. Maradona has shown more favor to aging vets like Juan Sebastian Veron over Cambiasso.LIKELY BREAKOUT STAR(s)
Sergio "Kun" Aguero (forward, Atletico Madrid) and Gonzalo Higuain
(forward, Real Madrid). The two Madrid strikers will battle for a spot in the staring lineup (if, of course, Maradona wises up and realizes this team is built for a 4-3-3). Both are on the verge of super-stardom and will want to etch their name next to Messi on the world's stage.THE LIKELY VILLAIN
Absolutely no one will be surprised if Argentina wins the entire tournament. On the other hand, no one will be surprised if Argentina loses in the second round (or, gasp, the group stage). Maradona is that bad of a manager.PRODUCTION NOTES
The team will play a 4-4-2 with Tevez and Messi up front and two defensive midfielders. Messi will be slotted into Maradona's old role (which doesn't really suit him alongside Tevez and without a midfielder distributor) of floating wherever he wants and trying to carve up the other team with runs and passes.WHAT THEY'LL WEAR
IT'S SORTA LIKE...
Any Jackie Chan movie
Jackie Chan and Diego Maradona are very similar (without the drug part for Chan). Think about it. Both men are amongst the most remarkable specimens in their field (Chan at martial arts, Maradona at dribbling), but both make questionable decisions (Chan making "Shanghai Noon" and Maradona's cocaine phase). Though, to be fair. Saying that Maradona makes questionable decisions is like saying a hurricane is just an average thunderstorm with a little bit of wind and water. They also tend to be afterthoughts in conversations about the greatest ever because for much of their working life they have been considered sort of a joke. While Jet Li was making serious movies, Chan was doing "The Legend of Drunken Master." While Pele was selling the game to the entire world, Maradona was getting tattoos of Che on his arm. Having said all of that... most Jackie Chan movies (like "Super Cop" and "Drunken Master") are awesome. Just like most of the time Maradona touched the ball on the field.TRAILER
This is what the Argentineans do best: a 23-touch goal that's just spectacular.DO WHAT YOU WILL WITH THIS...
The country has one psychologist/psychiatrist per 100 residents.CRITICAL BLURBS
There might not be a better assemblage of offensive talent in the world. They shouldn't have trouble scoring goals. The biggest issue will be letting goals in, as their defense is creaky and weak. ... They will go only as far as Maradona allows them. ... The draw should suit them. With Greece and South Korea not massive scoring threats, Argentina's back four should get a few games to gel before the knock-out phase. ... Messi, for whatever reason, isn't nearly the same player for country that he is with club-side Barcelona. If he puts together a strong tournament, he's capable of beating more than half the teams in the Cup on his own. ... Best-case scenario? A spot in the finals. ... Realistic prediction?
Losing in the quarterfinals, probably to Spain.POSSIBLE HOLLYWOOD MOMENT
In a scene reminiscent of 1986, Diego Maradona is carried off the field on the shoulders of his players after successfully putting it together and managing Argentina to a deserved World Cup victory. He announces that he will retire from football completely and begin his campaign for president of Argentina. (He'll win, of course.)
Group A: South Africa, Uruguay, Mexico, France
Group B: South Korea, Greece, Nigeria, Argentina
Group C: Algeria, Slovenia, USA, England
Group D: Serbia, Australia, Ghana, Germany
Group E: Japan, Cameroon, Denmark, Netherlands
Group F: New Zealand, Slovakia, Paraguay, Italy
Group G: North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal, Brazil
Honduras, Chile, Switzerland, Spain
Sources: World Cup 2010 (by Steven D. Stark and Harrison Stark); ESPN and Soccernet.com; FIFA; CIA Factbook