Has Argentina Won a World Cup?
In what is likely the last World Cup for Lionel Messi, his Argentina side is taking on Croatia in the semifinals of the tournament in Qatar. For a soccer-crazed nation like Argentina, winning the World Cup trophy is the pinnacle of sporting achievement. So, as Messi’s 2022 team tries to reach for ultimate glory, let’s answer the question, has Argentina won a World Cup? And while we’re at it, has Lionel Messi won a World Cup?
Argentina at the World Cup
The FIFA World Cup dates all the way back to 1930. Nearly 90 years ago, Argentina was one of the teams in that initial 16 team-field, which dropped to 13 teams when Egypt, Japan, and Siam (now Thailand) dropped out.
The tournament was played in Uruguay, which beat out several European countries to host the event.
Argentina won its Group Stage, beating France, Chile, and Mexico to reach the knockout round. In that round, which included just four teams, Argentina beat the U.S. 6-1 to move on to face the host country. However, in the final match, the home team, Uruguay, beat their South American counterparts 4-2 to win the inaugural event.
The country would play in the tournament again in 1934, in a watered-down tournament that several countries boycotted due to the event taking place in a Benito Mussolini-led Italy. Argentina lost in the first round of this all-knockout tournament to Sweden.
The country would then sit out the next three World Cups. Argentina declined to participate in the 1938 event in protest of the France-hosted tournament being in Europe twice in a row. Then the World Cup went away until 1950 due to World Wars. When it returned, Argentina again chose not to participate because of tension with the host country, Brazil. In 1954, Argentina sat out a third consecutive tournament due to differences with other soccer federations.
Since then, Argentina has participated in every World Cup, except for 1970, where the team failed to qualify.
Argentina has won a World Cup
So, with all that history, has Argentina won the World Cup? The answer is yes, twice.
In 1978, Argentina hosted the World Cup. Up to that point, since making the finals in 1930, the team’s best performance was reaching the quarterfinals in 1966.
The tournament was noteworthy as the last to include only 16 teams. It was also controversial, as it was hosted by Argentina’s military junta government that had taken over in a coup just two years prior.
Despite the controversy, Argentina forward Mario Kempes took home the Golden Boot with six goals, including two in the final against the Netherlands, while leading Argentina to its first World Cup win.
Four years later, Argentina made it to a second Group Stage (as was the format at the time) before losses to Italy and Brazil knocked them out for an 11th-place finish.
In 1986, Argentina was back in Mexico, and this time they were led by one of the greatest players of all time, Diego Maradona. Victories of South Korea and Bulgaria and a draw with Italy got them out of the Group Stage, and a 1-0 win over Uruguay moved them to the quarterfinals.
That quarterfinals match against England may be the most famous World Cup match of all time.
With tensions high between the two countries on the heels of the Falklands War in 1982, the two sides played a scoreless first half. Then, during a four-minute stretch in the second half, Maradona scored two of the most iconic goals in football history.
On the first, now known as the “Hand of God” goal, the 5-foot-5 Maradona outjumped 6-foot-1 English goalkeeper Peter Shilton, using his hand to punch the ball into the net. The referee didn’t see the illegal move, and the goal stood.
Four minutes later, Maradona picked up the ball 60 yards from the English net and ran through what seemed like the entire England side, including the goalkeeper, to score the second goal of the game, which is now considered the “Goal of the Century.”
Gary Lineker would pull a goal back for England a half-hour later, but it was too little, too late, as the game finished 2-1.
After that legendary game, Argentina beat Belgium 2-0 in the semifinals and West Germany 3-2 in the finals to take its second trophy home.
Lionel Messi has not won a World Cup
Now that we know the answer to the question, “has Argentina won a World Cup?” Let’s look at the query, “has Lionel Messi won a World Cup?”
Messi was born and raised in Argentina, but with family in Spain on his father’s side, he was eligible to play for either Spain or Argentina on the world stage. He chose Argentina, debuting at the age of 18 in 2005 and playing in his first World Cup in 2006.
In the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, Messi and La Albiceleste were knocked out in the quarterfinals by Germany both times. In 2014, the team made it to the finals but lost to Germany. Last time around, in 2018, Messi and Argentina made it to the knockout stage but lost to the eventual champions, France, in a 4-3 thriller.
Now, in 2022, Lionel Messi is two games away from winning his first World Cup, which would surely cement his legacy as the greatest of all time.