Why couldn't Argentina win the 1990 FIFA World Cup? What was the main issue with that squad?

What was the main difference between Argentina's 1990 and 2022 World Cup squads?

  • 1
    This is a totally opinion based question. I've seen the 1990 world cup in tv as an argentine. Word in Argentina was "Maradona is old". He was 30, Messi in the 2022 world cup was 35. Maradona was indeed out of his peak and wasnt the best player in the world anymore, which led Argentina to win in 1986 when he was. Messi numbers of assists and goals before the 2022 world cup are in the level of the best player in the world, along with Haaland. Argentina style of play, at least since 1986, relies on having a genius playmaker, since Maradona left in 1994, we were looking for one to replace him
    – Pablo
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 19:33
  • As I said in the former comment, since at least 1986 Argentina style of play depends on having a genius playmaker. Since Maradona left in 1994, we tried to replace him with Gallardo, Ortega, Aimar, Riquelme. All of them failed. Messi also had a hard time replacing him in the argentine squad until at least 2014 when we reached the World Cup finals, and later 2 Copa America finals in a row.
    – Pablo
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 19:40

1 Answer 1


Argentina's main problem in 1990 was that they simply didn't score enough goals. In their seven matches at the tournament they scored only five goals, one of the lowest tallies of any team ever to reach the final, and became the first finalists not to score after mustering just one shot on goal in the entire match.

According to Wikipedia, this was the result of an ultra-defensive strategy, rather than a lack of attacking talent:

The South Americans failed to put together a coherent attacking strategy and lost the ball frequently. Instead, they focused on defending at all costs, knowing they would have the advantage if they managed to reach the penalty shoot-out, as they had already advanced twice in the tournament [against Yugoslavia and Italy] by this means.

This strategy ultimately backfired, as the winning goal was scored in the 85th minute, by which time they were already down to ten men and had little hope of equalising even if they started attacking more.

Compare that to Argentina in 2022, who scored fifteen goals in seven matches (seven of which were scored by Lionel Messi), managed twenty shots on goal during the final, and only went to penalties after conceding a late equalizer, rather than penalties having been the plan all along.

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