Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Argentina have named a strong squad for the June 1 international friendly against Nigeria in Abuja, although, understandably, a number of super stars are missing from the squad.

The prestige friendly, holding at the Abuja National Stadium and organized by Guinness, brings together sides that met at the South Africa 2010 World Cup, a game which the South Americans won 1-0 after strong resistance from the Super Eagles.

Argentina made announced their squad yesterday, with such big names as Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez and Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria all missing.

But the squad still contains star names that should give the Abuja crowd full value and the Super Eagles a tough game.

World Footballer of the Year Messi is left out as a result of his involvement in the Champions League final just three days before the game, the same reason Javier Mascherano is excluded. Tevez has not been in the good books of coach Sergio Batista following a clash, while Higuain only recently recovered from a long-term injury.

However, Manchester City defender, Pablo Zabaleta, who won the English FA Cup with the club on Saturday, leads the 20-man squad, which is mostly Europe-based.

The almost wholly Europe-based squad includes eight players from the Spanish Primera Liga, three from the English Premier League, four from the Portuguese top flight and one from Serie A.

Notably, several of the players were part of the World Cup and have featured regularly since coach Sergio Batista took over from Diego Maradona in the aftermath of South Africa 2010.

An excited Batista said after announcing the squad:  “I have named a world-class squad for Guinness The Match.  It befits our status as one of the world’s greatest and most successful football nations and combines the strength of our more experienced team members together with the best of our exciting young talent.  We intend to put the Super Eagles to the test in a way only Argentina can – and we will win for our fans and our nation.”

Leading football authority and former Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce, who managed Jay Jay Okocha at the Premier League side and was present at the announcement of Guinness The Match earlier this year, said: “I am impressed with the coach’s choice.  There is a genuine, dynamic mix of youth and experience that should ignite the Argentine side on the night.

It’ll be fascinating to see who is picked for the team on the day.  I would love to see
 the likes of Diego Perotti (of Sevilla) step up.  Pablo Zabaleta has just won the FA Cup with Manchester City and been a vital member of the team that has secured a place in the UEFA Champions League next year.

“Franco Jara and Nicolas Gaitan were a core part of the Benfica team that won the 2010/11 Portuguese League Cup Final in April, clinching their third consecutive league cup trophy.

In fact Franco Jara is a really exciting talent.  He was called up to the Argentine national team on 19 January 2010 for a match against Costa Rica.  The match finished 3–2 with Jara scoring the match-winning goal.

“Since his inclusion in the Argentine starting line-up at the FIFA World Cup, the highly exciting Nicolas Otamendi (also with four league goals in 11 appearances since his transfer to Porto this season) is a real name to watch out for.  He and Fernando Belluschi have just helped Porto to win the Portuguese Liga.  Porto are also playing in the Europa League final on 18 May in Dublin.

Ruben Marco and Mateo Musacchio were instrumental in steering Villarreal to the Europa League semifinal.

“Siasia will doubtless now be reading this with heightened interest and I am now intrigued to see who he will name.  He too has some exciting young talent in his armoury.  One thing’s for sure, it will certainly provide the fans with a spectacular high tension, action-packed 90 minutes.”

Responding to the squad announcement, Super Eagles coach, Samson Siasia, said:  “It is not about the individual players such as Messi and Tevez.  The strength and success of Argentina and the threat they pose, comes from the depth of their football talent. This is what makes Guinness The Match such an exciting challenge for me personally and all our players.

“The coach’s squad is impressive – with such an array of talent available to him he has put forward a clever combination of tried and tested players with solid international experience together with the exciting skill of the phenomenal rising stars of Argentina.
We knew full well that he could raise a world class team to maintain their unbeaten record against us and defend their ranking as 5th in the world.  With this squad he is definitely playing to win.  But we will be well prepared and fielding our very best team. Fans can expect a thrilling game. It will be a match for the history books and we will show what we are made of.  We will not let the fans down.  In return we ask them to play their part and show their support”
C.A. Independiente, Argentina
Manchester City. England
Sunderland AFC, England
GARAY, Ezequiel:
Real Madrid, Spain
OTAMENDI, Nicolas:
Porto FC, Portugal
FAZIO, Federico:
Sevilla, Spain
BELLUSCHI, Fernando:
Porto FC, Portugal
CABRAL, Alejandro:
Legia Varsovia, Poland
   Blackburn Rovers, England
INSUA, Emiliano    -    Galatasaray, Turkey
CRISTALDO, Jonathan-    Metalist Kharkiv, Ukraine    
GAITAN, Nicolas    -    Benfica, Portugal  
PIATTI, Pablo         -    Almeria, Spain   
RUBEN, Marco        -    Villarreal, Spain
JARA, Franco        -    Benfica, Portugal
PEROTTI, Diego    -    Sevilla, Spain
BOSELLI, Mauro    -    Genoa, Italy
BERTOLO, Nicolas    -    Real Zaragoza, Spain
COSTA, Tino        -    Valencia, Spain
MUSACCHIO, Mateo    -    Villarreal, Spain

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