The Olympic Football Tournament Athens 2004 will forever be a part of Argentinian sporting history, with Marcelo Bielsa's Albiceleste winning the country's first-ever gold medal. Boasting players of the calibre of Roberto Ayala, Javier Mascherano, Andres D'Alessandro and star performer Carlos Tevez, the tournament's top scorer, this Argentina squad went one further than the class of 1996, silver medal winners at the Atlanta games. The facts and figures of Tevez and Co's success also make inspiring reading: six wins from six games, 17 goals scored and none conceded.
The achievements of Athens 2004 may be a tough act to follow, but current coach Sergio Batista can call upon a group of players endowed with similarly dizzying levels of individual quality. Boasting U-23 stars firmly established at the biggest clubs in the world's most competitive leagues, Batista first unleashed his young charges in a 5-0 friendly win over Guatemala. Despite the quality at Argentina's disposal, a slew of major absentees at the South American U-20 Championship 2007 made qualifying for Beijing 2008 no easy task. In the event it took a last-gasp goal against Uruguay from Lautaro Acosta, subsequently part of the squad that won the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007, to send the Albiceleste through.
"Yes, we can count on an impressive squad of players, but we can't just rely on that. The most important thing will be to finish assembling a squad that's capable of putting our theoretical advantage into practice and repeat the medal won in Athens," says coach Batista, who has already confirmed Boca Juniors virtuoso Juan Roman Riquelme as captain of a team that could also include Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi and Fernando Gago, amongst others.
Facts and figures
Roberto Cherro (1928), Roberto Ayala (1996 and 2004), Diego Simeone (1996), Hernan Crespo (1996), Carlos Tevez (2004)
Javier Mascherano (midfielder), Juan Roman Riquelme (midfielder), Lionel Messi (forward) and Sergio Aguero (forward)
Argentina's Sudamericano U-20 performance was solid if unspectacular, the Albicelestes winning three games, drawing five and losing just one. They scored 15 and conceded eight.
The numbers game
3: The number of times Argentina have reached the Final of the Olympic Football Tournament in six attempts. After losing to Uruguay at Amsterdam 1928 and Nigeria at Atlanta 1996, a 1-0 win over Paraguay made it third time lucky at Athens 2004.
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