By Andrew Downie
(Reuters) – Argentina will return to the Women’s World Cup after a 12-year absence but have been drawn in arguably the toughest group and results this year indicate they might struggle to improve on past performances to record their first global triumph.
Argentina’s main task will be to do better than in 2007 when they lost all three games having scored once and conceded 18.
They have been handed a mammoth task next month in France in what is the hardest section of the six groups by world ranking.
Two of their Group D rivals, England and Japan, are in the top 10 with Scotland 17 places above them in 20th.
Argentina qualified for a third World Cup after finishing third in South America and beating Panama in a playoff.
They have struggled since, losing all three of their friendlies without scoring, but they are optimistic.
The domestic game is growing quickly, with a professional league due to start this year and the Argentine FA announcing the creation of a new high performance centre in Buenos Aires.
Clubs are also taking the women’s game more seriously, with the Boca Juniors team playing at the fabled Bombonera stadium for the first time in March. The game was the first to be broadcast live in Argentina.
“The (friendly) results don’t change anything,” attacking midfielder Maria Florencia Bonsegundo told FIFA.com.
“It was the first time we’ve played World Cup teams on official FIFA matchdays. They’re strong sides and we know what we’re up against. They were really useful games for us, though, and we’ll keep on working.
“Argentina are showing that we have what it takes,” added the Sporting Club Huelva player.
“We need to spend more time together, but we’re making progress and we want to make a mark. We know this is just the start, the start for a generation that will make people sit up and take notice.”
(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Ken Ferris)