This story appears in the June 14 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
Another fine Messi
Argentina's Lionel Messi will be the focus in this group, and for good reason. The reigning World Player of the Year's mesmerizing runs can decimate a defense and make for great TV. Coach Diego Maradona will command attention too, but likely for the wrong reasons. He used a dizzying array of lineups in qualifying and is apparently trying to psych out opponents by announcing Argentina's starters a month before the tourney begins.
The Super Eagles know all about Maradona's games and something about Messi's, too. He has scored or assisted on the winner against Nigeria twice: in the 2005 U20 final and in the 2008 Olympic gold medal match. But Nigeria may be hindered by the fact that new coach Lars Lagerback has had just a few weeks to assess the squad.
Then again, Otto Rehhagel has helmed Greece since 2001, and his longevity hasn't exactly fostered approval. Although his defensive style earned a surprise win at Euro '04, the Pirate Ship hasn't done much since. This time, chances rest on striker Theofanis Gekas, the team's lone scoring threat.