Argentina are expected to be among the teams capable of winning the 2022 FIFA World Cup, not least because Lionel Messi and his teammates are on a formidable unbeaten run that has put the Albiceleste on the brink of a world record.
Their sequence has shown no signs of slowing in recent months. Starting with their 3-0 win over Italy in the Finalissima at Wembley in June, Argentina have scored 19 times without reply across five games, including 5-0 thrashings of Estonia and the United Arab Emirates.
The run began in 2019 and has included qualification for the finals and Messi’s first major trophy with his country when the player of the tournament was part of a 1-0 win over Brazil in the final of the Copa America 2021.
Whose record are Argentina set to break? Which teams have previously gone the longest without defeat? The Sporting News takes a look.
MORE: Group C in 2022 World Cup, featuring Argentina & Mexico
Longest unbeaten streaks in international football
Italy missed their chance to preserve their own 37-game record when they were comprehensively beaten by a swaggering Argentina side.
Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri had looked all-conquering to that point as they set the current benchmark and won Euro 2020, only to then lose against Spain in October 2021 and, almost six months later, suffer a shock defeat to North Macedonia that makes them the most high-profile team not to be at the World Cup.
Curiously, three nations in three different regions — Europe (Italy), South America (Argentina) and Africa (Algeria) — have all achieve unprecedentedly long stretches of success at virtually the same time.
The list of longest unbeaten streaks in global football includes some of the world’s great footballing nations, featuring both European and South American powerhouses.
By its own estimation, defending AFCON 2019 champion Algeria was in this elite company – but world governing body FIFA didn’t see it quite the same way.
Longest unbeaten streaks in international football
|Streak Began||Streak Ended||Ended By|
|Italy||37 (30-0-7)||Oct. 10, 2018||Oct. 6, 2021||Spain|
|Argentina*||36 (27-0-9)||July 2, 2019||—||—|
|Algeria||35 (26-0-9)||Nov. 18, 2018||Jan. 16, 2022||Equatorial Guinea|
|Spain||35 (32-0-3)||Feb. 7, 2007||June 24, 2009||United States|
|Brazil||35 (28-0-7)||Dec. 16, 1993||Jan. 21, 1996||Mexico|
|Argentina||31 (21-0-10)||Feb. 20, 1991||Aug. 15, 1993||Colombia|
|France||30 (22-0-8)||Feb. 16, 1994||June 26, 1996||Czech Republic|
|Italy||30 (24-0-6)||Nov. 24, 1935||Nov. 12, 1939||Switzerland|
|Algeria||25 (17-0-8)||Nov. 14, 2019||Jan. 16, 2022||Equatorial Guinea|
The issue of which matches count and which don’t has come up in the case of other teams, too.
Italy’s record streak in the 1930s, which was unmatched for over 50 years, officially did not include a match that the Italians were losing to Austria 2-0 before it was abandoned due to crowd trouble.
Brazil’s run (1993-96) is somewhat controversial, because many argue that the streak-snapping loss to Mexico should not have counted, since it came in the 1996 CONCACAF Gold Cup final against what was practically a Brazil Under-23 team preparing to play in the Olympics.
Removing the three wins and one loss that Brazil suffered in that 1996 Gold Cup, Brazil would have reached 40 games unbeaten before losing at full strength.
FIFA officially counted those Gold Cup matches as senior contests, so the defeat to Mexico could not be discarded.
Brazil’s case didn’t hold water with FIFA, and Algeria’s didn’t either.
MORE: FIFA disputes Algeria unbeaten streak ended in early 2022
When can Argentina set the unbeaten record?
Argentina simply need to avoid defeat against Saudi Arabia in their opening World Cup Group C game to equal Italy’s all-time record of 37 unbeaten, while two games without defeat in Qatar will see the Albiceleste stand alone in history.
Argentina’s possible World Cup fixtures
|Nov. 22||Saudi Arabia||World Cup Group C|
|Nov. 26||Mexico||World Cup Group C|
|Nov. 30||Poland||World Cup Group C|
|Dec. 3-6*||TBD||World Cup Round of 16|
|Dec. 9-10*||TBD||World Cup Quarterfinals|
|Dec. 13-14*||TBD||World Cup Semifinals|
|Dec. 18*||TBD||World Cup Final|
* Potential World Cup knockout match if Argentina advance
Argentina longest unbeaten international run: the results
Argentina’s impressive run of results has included three games against Brazil, winning twice and drawing once against the top-ranked nation in the world. Of five games against Chile, two were wins, while three were draws.
One game that is not included in the run is a game against Brazil that was scheduled to take place in September 2021.
That match had barely started when it was suspended, because Brazilian health authority officials entered the pitch to intervene over four Argentina players who broke COVID-19 quarantine regulations by taking part in the game.
|1||July 6, 2019||Argentina 2-1 Chile||Copa America|
|3||Sept. 10, 2019||Argentina 4-0 México||Friendly|
|4||Oct. 9, 2019||Germany 2-2 Argentina||Friendly|
|5||Oct. 13, 2019||Argentina 6-1 Ecuador||Friendly|
|6||Nov. 15, 2019||Argentina 1-0 Brazil||Friendly|
|7||Nov. 18, 2019||Argentina 2-2 Uruguay||Friendly|
|8||Oct 8, 2020||Argentina 1-0 Ecuador||World Cup Qualifier|
|9||Oct. 13, 2020||Bolivia 1-2 Argentina||World Cup Qualifier|
|10||Nov 12, 2020||Argentina 1-1 Paraguay||World Cup Qualifier|
|11||Nov. 17, 2020||Peru 0-2 Argentina||World Cup Qualifier|
|12||June 3, 2021||Argentina 1-1 Chile||World Cup Qualifier|
|13||June 8, 2021||Colombia 2-2 Argentina||World Cup Qualifier|
|14||June 14, 2021||Argentina 1-1 Chile||Copa America|
|15||June 18, 2021||Argentina 1-0 Uruguay||Copa America|
|16||June 21, 2021||Argentina 1-0 Paraguay||Copa America|
|17||June 28, 2021||Argentina 4-1 Bolivia||Copa America|
|18||July 3, 2021||Argentina 3-0 Ecuador||Copa America|
|19||July 6, 2021||Argentina 1-1 (3-2) Colombia||Copa America|
|20||July 10, 2021||Brazil 0-1 Argentina||Copa America|
|21||Sept. 2, 2021||Venezuela 1-3 Argentina||World Cup Qualifier|
|22||Sept. 9, 2021||Argentina 3-0 Bolivia||World Cup Qualifier|
|23||Oct. 7, 2021||Paraguay 0-0 Argentina||World Cup Qualifier|
|24||Oct. 10, 2021||Argentina 3-0 Uruguay||World Cup Qualifier|
|25||Oct. 14, 2021||Argentina 1-0 Peru||World Cup Qualifier|
|26||Nov. 12, 2021||Uruguay 0-1 Argentina||World Cup Qualifier|
|27||Nov. 16, 2021||Argentina 0-0 Brazil||World Cup Qualifier|
|28||Jan. 27, 2022||Chile 1-2 Argentina||World Cup Qualifier|
|29||Feb. 1, 2022||Argentina 1-0 Colombia||World Cup Qualifier|
|30||March 25, 2022||Argentina 3-0 Venezuela||World Cup Qualifier|
|31||March 29, 2022||Ecuador 1-1 Argentina||World Cup Qualifier|
|32||June 1, 2022||Italy 0-3 Argentina||Finalissima|
|33||June 5, 2022||Argentina 5-0 Estonia||Friendly|
|34||Sept. 23, 2022||Argentina 3-0 Honduras||Friendly|
|35||Sept. 27, 2022||Argentina 3-0 Jamaica||Friendly|
|36||Nov. 16, 2022||UAE 0-5 Argentina||Friendly|