Penpix of Argentina squad
Sergio Romero (AZ Alkmaar). Goalkeeper. Born Feb. 22 1987. Caps: 5.
Big man, 1.92 metres tall, who caught coach Diego Maradona's eye at the Beijing Olympics where he helped Argentina to win a second successive gold medal but he earned the number one slot only in the qualifiers against Paraguay in September. Commanding in the air and good at closing down the options when one-on-one with an attacker.
Mariano Andujar (Catania). Goalkeeper. Born July 30 1983. Caps: 4.
Helped Estudiantes de La Plata win the Libertadores Cup last year, setting a tournament record of 800 minutes without conceding a goal before earning a move to Italy's Serie A. Good in the air and on his line but lost Maradona's faith in the 3-1 defeat by Brazil in Rosario, coming out poorly for the third goal scored by Luis Fabiano.
Diego Pozo (Colon de Santa Fe). Goalkeeper. Born Feb. 16 1978. Caps: 3.
A veteran who earned his international chance last year thanks to Maradona's penchant for an ever-changing home-based squad. Agile, quick off his line, very good at defending long-range shots.
Nicolas Otamendi (Velez Sarsfield). Defender. Born Feb. 12 1988. Caps: 6.
The best discovery in the home-based squad, he could start the World Cup on the right of a back four made up of four central defenders and could struggle if faced with a nippy left wing. Good ball control on the ground, strong in the air in defence and when attacking at corners and free kicks.
Martin Demichelis (Bayern Munich). Defender. Born Dec. 20 1980. Caps: 25. Goals: 1.
Helped his club to reach the Champions League final despite an early return from a serious facial injury. Caught the eye as a talented teenager at River Plate. Good coming forward out of defence, he has also played as a defensive midfielder. Went into a depression when he was discarded at the last minute for the 2006 finals in Germany by coach Jose Pekerman.
Walter Samuel (Inter Milan). Defender. Born March 23 1978. Caps: 54. Goals: 4.
A veteran of Argentina's failure at the 2002 World Cup, he missed out on the 2006 finals and has won only one cap under Maradona but impressive displays this season for Inter by the man nicknamed "The Wall" when he was at AS Roma have earned him a recall. Good header at both ends of the field, he has scored crucial goals for his club.
Gabriel Heinze (Olympique Marseille). Defender. Born April 19 1978. Caps: 63. Goals: 2.
"El Gringo" is one of the least popular choices among Argentine fans and media who see him as a liability in defence but he is loved by Maradona who sees this committed, never-say-die player as epitomising the kind he wants in Argentina's colours.
Nicolas Burdisso (Inter Milan). Defender. Born April 12 1981. Caps: 28. Goals: 2.
Former Boca Juniors central defender who can also perform well on the flanks and would make a good reserve for any of the back four, he has good control and is a fine header.
Fabricio Coloccini (Newcastle United). Defender. Born Jan. 22 1982. Caps: 33. Goals: 1.
Strong, impulsive centre back who has settled in at Newcastle helping them to return to the Premier League after a season in the second tier. Comes forward well, he is a veteran of the 2006 finals where he played as a right back in two matches after helping Argentina to win the 2001 World Youth Cup and the 2004 Olympic gold medal.
Clemente Rodriguez (Estudiantes de La Plata). Defender. Born July 31 1981. Caps: 11.
Twice a Libertadores cup winner with Boca Juniors, his small number of caps span many years, including a spell out of the Argentine public eye at CSKA Moscow, and his recent call-ups by Maradona are the result of fine performances for his team at the Club World Cup in December and the Clausura this year. Strong runner who can play on either flank and gets into scoring positions.
Ariel Garce (Colon). Defender. Born July 14 1979. Caps: 3.
Versatile player who first made his name at River Plate as a right back and won two caps under Marcelo Bielsa in 2003. A central defender for his club, he is good coming forward, which earned him a recall after seven years for the May friendly against Haiti. Failed a doping test in 2005 playing for modest provincial side Olimpo and served a six-month suspension.
Juan Insaurralde (Newell's Old Boys). Defender. Born Oct. 3 1984. Caps: 2.
Centre back with good heading skills in defence and attack who secured his inclusion in the 4-0 friendly win over Haiti in May. Helped his club to pick up most points this season in the Argentine league although they did not win either title, running Banfield close in the Apertura in December.
Javier Mascherano (Liverpool). Midfielder. Born June 8 1984. Caps: 56. Goals: 2.
The "Little chief" is the key player for Maradona, who named him captain at the beginning of his tenure saying the team was "Masche" and 10 others. A fine ball winner and distributor with good positional sense who lost his way somewhat, along with most of his team Argentina mates, in last year's qualifiers as Maradona floundered with tactical issues.
Mario Bolatti (Fiorentina). Midfielder. Born Feb. 17 1985. Caps: 4. Goals: 1.
Regarded as the best player of last season's Clausura championship playing for runners-up Huracan under attack-minded coach Angel Cappa. An elegant box-to-box midfielder who scored the goal that sent Argentina to South Africa with a 1-0 win over Uruguay in their last qualifier in Montevideo.
Juan Mercier (Argentinos Juniors). Midfielder. Born Feb. 2 1980. Caps: 3.
Late developer who played in the Argentine second tier Nacional B division until he was 27 when he joined his present club. Fine all-round central midfielder in the mould of Esteban Cambiasso, who was overlooked by Maradona. Played a major part in his club's bid to win the Argentine Clausura championship.
Jonas Gutierrez (Newcastle United). Midfielder. Born July 5 1983. Caps: 15. Goals: 1.
Lanky right winger nicknamed "Galgo" (greyhound) for his long-stride running up and down the flank and "Spiderman" for donning a mask to celebrate his goals. Helped his club to gain promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt after being reassured by Maradona he would not cease to be in Argentina's plans if he remained in the second tier of the English game.
Juan Sebastian Veron, (Estudiantes de La Plata). Midfielder. Born March 9 1975. Caps: 69. Goals: 9.
A dynamic attacking midfielder in his younger years, the "Little Witch" (son of the original "Witch" Juan Ramon Veron) has withdrawn into a deeper but no less influential position where he is noted for his accurate passes, layoffs and long balls to change the direction of attacks. Has a dangerous right foot at set pieces. Showed character to win back fans after being made a scapegoat for Argentina's failure in 2002 in Japan where, as a Manchester United player, he was perceived as lacking commitment in the defeat by England.
Angel Di Maria (Benfica). Midfielder. Born Feb. 14 1988. Caps: 7.
One of the biggest recent finds in Argentine football, having helped the under-20s to win the 2007 World Youth Cup in Canada, and a leading player in the Portuguese league. A dynamic left winger, very hard to stop, who scores goals and lays them on for fellow attackers in abundance.
Javier Pastore (Palermo). Midfielder. Born June 20 1989. Caps: 0.
Lanky player nicknamed "Huesito" (little bone). Another member of the impressive Cappa side at Huracan last year, earning a move to Italy, he is a creative midfielder who could be the closest to a stand-in for Veron. Was called up for the friendly against Germany in March but has not yet made his official debut having played and scored against Johan Cruyff's Catalunya in December.
Sebastian Blanco (Lanus). Midfielder. Born March 15 1988. Caps: 2. Goal: 1.
Played for Maradona's home-based team in friendlies against relatively weak opposition having impressed in the league and Libertadores Cup with his club. Is good with free kicks and long-range shots. More of a prospect for the future beyond the World Cup.
Maximiliano Rodriguez (Liverpool). Midfielder. Born Jan. 2 1981. Caps: 35. Goals: 10.
Right wing nicknamed "Fiera" (wild cat) for his never-say-die attitude. Scored the outstanding goal of the 2006 finals, a looping, left-footed volley from well outside the box for the winner in Argentina's 2-1 extra-time victory over Mexico. An incisive runner who likes to cut diagonally into the box.
Jesus Datolo (Olympiakos). Midfielder. Born May 17 1984. Caps: 3. Goals: 2.
Left-sided player not afraid to try shooting from distance who marked his debut with the winner in the friendly against Guus Hiddink's Russia less than a minute after coming on as a substitute and scored against Brazil with a thunderbolt from outside the box into the far top corner. Moved to Olympiakos on loan from Napoli to be sure of playing regularly with an eye on the World Cup.
Jose Sosa (Estudiantes de La Plata). Midfielder. Born June 19 1985. Caps: 6. Goals: 1.
Skilled attacking midfielder who returned to Estudiantes on loan from Bayern Munich but was not allowed by FIFA to play for them at the Club World Cup in December. Has shown all his skills helping Estudiantes to defend the Libertadores Cup but his chances for Argentina since a March 2005 debut have been few and far between.
Lionel Messi (Barcelona). Forward. Born June 24 1987. Caps: 45. Goals: 13.
World's top player, a multiple title-winner with his club, small and nicknamed "The Flea", with exceptional ball control at speed. Some of his skills are reminiscent of Maradona the player but he will have to work out with the coach how they both get the best out of him for his country after some indifferent performances in the qualifiers.
Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid). Forward. Born Dec. 10 1987. Caps: 4. Goals: 2.
Brilliant finisher, the centre forward Argentina needed to be able to forget Gabriel Batistuta and Hernan Crespo, he was also eligible for France having been born in Brest where his defender father "Pipa" (hence the nickname "Pipita") played but turned them down. An intelligent player always seeking space to take the ball from a team mate, he prefers to run on to passes but will also do a good job with his back to goal holding the ball up. Overlooked at first by Maradona, apparently over his refusal to play for Argentina at the World Youth Cup in 2007.
Carlos Tevez (Manchester City). Forward. Born Feb. 5 1984. Caps: 53. Goals: 8.
Known as "Apache" after the shantytown "Fuerte (fort) Apache" where he grew up, he is a battler to the last and one of Argentina's most charismatic players. As a City regular he has recovered the scoring form with which he won the South American Player of the Year award for three years in a row while at Boca Juniors and Corinthians. Has made a huge impression in England's Premier League, scoring regularly, and will be looking to transfer his form to his games for Argentina after mixed performances and two red cards in the qualifiers.
Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid). Forward. Born June 2 1988. Caps: 21. Goals: 7.
Nicknamed "Kun" after a Japanese cartoon character. A regular scorer for his club side, with tremendous ability and agility to turn defenders, he has become a regular substitute for Argentina and a penalty-box menace for the best defences. He is the father of Maradona's first grandson, Benjamin.
Diego Milito (Inter Milan). Forward. Born June 12 1979. Caps: 21. Goals: 4.
Another of the Argentine goal machines who have prowled the European leagues this season, leading the Inter attack into the Champions League final and helping them to win the Serie A title. Has scored few times for Argentina but should prove an asset coming off the bench.
Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli). Forward. Born May 3 195. Caps: 6.
"Pocho" (chubby one) is a temperamental, highly skilled forward who has at times got on the wrong side of officials at his Serie A club but at others has thrilled the fans with his skills, transporting them back to the days of glory with Maradona.
Martin Palermo (Boca Juniors). Forward. Born Nov. 7 1973. Caps: 13. Goals: 8.
Maradona gave Boca's all-time record scorer an 80 percent guarantee he would take him to South Africa. Not noted for skill but has an uncanny knack of finding the right positions in the box. Stands out for the unusual goals he has scored and one key strike for Argentine in pouring rain against Peru in the qualifiers when Maradona asked for and got a miracle from the man who has missed three penalties in one match but has scored eight in only 13 internationals. He spent 10 years overlooked by his country after a 1999 debut. (Compiled by Rex Gowar, Editing by Ed Osmond; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)