Football

The fears

Argentina's loss to Germany may have represented the last opportunity for the country's storied "2005 generation'' to claim the sport's biggest prize.

The backbone of the side that went down 1-0 first came together at the 2005 Under-20 World Cup in Holland, where Argentina beat Nigeria 2-1 in the final.

There were six members of that team in coach Alejandro Sabella's World Cup squad: captain Lionel Messi, striker Sergio Aguero, defenders Pablo Zabaleta and Ezequiel Garay, and midfielders Fernando Gago and Lucas Biglia.

All will be 30 or over by the time of the next World Cup.

While that does not preclude them from enjoying success in Russia, the 2014 tournament was supposed to be their crowning glory.

At 33, centre-back Martin Demichelis has almost certainly played in his last World Cup, while 29-year-olds Zabaleta and Ezequiel Lavezzi may not be around in four years' time either.

Inspirational midfielder Javier Mascherano, meanwhile, will be 34. As he admitted before the final: "This is my third World Cup. Maybe it will be my best last one."

Further compounding the sense of a missed opportunity is the fact that Argentina's next generation has nowhere near the same depth of talent.

When a side built around Aguero won the 2007 U-20 World Cup in Canada, it was the fifth time in seven tournaments that Argentina had taken the title.

But they failed to qualify in 2009 and 2013, and fell in the quarter-finals in 2011.

Where Argentina have succeeded in producing exciting young talents in recent years, they have often struggled to establish themselves, with Erik Lamela an illustrative example.

An exceptionally skilful left-footed attacker, Lamela left River Plate for Roma at the age of 19 and last year joined Tottenham Hotspur, but he all but disappeared from sight in his first season at White Hart Lane.

Young forwards such as Inter-Milan's Mauro Icardi, Juan Iturbe of Verona and Racing's Luciano Vietto offer hope for the future, but the conveyor belt of talent that has sustained the country over the last decade seems to have ground to a halt. - Wire Services.

World Cup