Listen to the Argentines sing the blues long enough and one is tempted to get out the violins.

Star defender Daniel Passarella, captain of the Argentines' 1978 and 1982 World Cup teams, has not played in this year's Cup because of stomach problems, and when he finally resumed practice, he suffered a leg injury.

Striker Jorge Valdano complains that "it is criminal to play at noon" because of the heat and high altitude here.

Coach Carlos Bilardo remains under fire for his offensive strategies and personnel moves.

Overzealous fans at home put intense pressure on the players to perform well.

Many of the team's players are in Europe much of the year, making it difficult for Bilardo to mesh the individuals into a cohesive unit.

But don't cry for Argentina.

The country is soccer-rich, full of players with remarkable skills. Next to Brazil, Argentina probably has Latin America's proudest soccer tradition. And with Diego Maradona, the Argentines may have the world's best player. Maradona's presence alone makes Argentina, a 2-0 winner today over Bulgaria, a threat for its second World Cup title.

"This team should at least make the semifinals," said Michel Hidalgo, the former French coach here as a sportscaster. "It has balance, it has incentive and it has Maradona."

The Argentines appear confident. "When we play well, why should we lose?" said goalkeeper Nery Pumpido. The Argentine players walk with a swagger of sorts, and when they come out on the field, they comport themselves almost arrogantly.

"Brazil does it best," said Jose Maria Munoz, an Argentine commentator. "They come out on the field and the other team just looks at them and says, 'We cannot win.' Argentina can have the same effect, especially for those who have seen Maradona."

The Argentines generate a mystique in several ways. The players seldom give interviews to non-Argentine journalists. They are the masters of the late entrance, waiting until just minutes before a match to appear on the field while their opponents have warmed up for a half-hour.

And here at the World Cup, they are training at the luxurious facilities of Club America, a Mexican League team. The facilities are the finest available to a Cup participant. The Argentines have access to five practice fields, a gymnasium, game rooms, saunas and a movie theater.

And with Maradona's creativity leading the way, Argentina has matched its training grounds for quality.

Overshadowed by Maradona is Valdano, a 31-year-old striker who was the second-leading scorer in the Spanish league this past season. Valdano, who works very well with Maradona, is an intelligent player who seldoms dazzles but often is around the ball in striking position.

With Maradona and Valdano, Argentina should have little trouble scoring consistently. But many believe Argentina does not always make the best use of its offensive talents.

Bilardo's 3-3-4 formation -- using three fullbacks instead of a more offensive-oriented 2-4-4 set-up -- has come under fire. Former Argentina coach Cesar Luis Menotti, who directed the team to the 1978 Cup title, frequently has criticized his successor. Many Argentine fans have wondered why the team does not attack more, and many wondered why Bilardo named Maradona as captain instead of Passarella.

But Argentine fans are hard to please. "Argentine fans can never be completely satisfied," said Julio Grondona, head of the Argentine soccer federation. "Argentine fans did not trust this team before the Cup, but now they seem happy with it. Next week may be different."

Indeed, Bilardo's club seems as solid as ever. His defensive-minded approach has strengthened the team. Defenders Jose Cuciuffo, Jose Brown and Oscar Ruggeri seldom make mistakes, meaning that Pumpido seldom needs to make saves.

At Olympic Stadium today, Argentina dominated a Bulgarian team that desperately needed at least a tie in hopes of advancing to the round of 16. Bulgaria had one shot on goal.

With the victory, Argentina (2-0-1) claimed the top spot in Group A and will play an undetermined third-place finisher in the round of 16 Monday in Puebla. Italy (1-0-2) finished second in Group A and drew a tough assignment for its game Tuesday at Olympic Stadium -- Group C runner-up France.

Both of Argentina's goals today were wonderful sights.

In the third minute, Cuciuffo took advantage of Alexander Markov's mistake and regained possession deep in Bulgarian territory. Cuciuffo dribbled in on the right side and lofted a centering pass just beyond leaping goalkeeper Borislav Mihalov. From seven yards out, Valdano headed it in on the left side for his third goal of the Cup.

In the 31st minute of the second half, Maradona, deep in the left corner, sent a beautiful pass to the right side and Jorge Burruchaga headed it in. Maradona has four assists and one goal in his team's three matches.

In Puebla, Alessandro Altobelli scored all of Italy's goals in his team's 3-2 victory over South Korea. The hat trick was the second of the Cup -- Denmark's Preben Elkjaer had one against Uruguay.