The Argentine national side arrived in Cairo on Monday in preparation for Wednesday’s friendly against African champions Egypt minus Esteban Cambiasso, who has an injury in his left leg. The squad got straight to work in the gym of the their hotel, whilst manager Alfio Basile gave a press conference.
‘For Argentina this match is very important, as are all of them’ Basile told reporters. ‘We’re taking on the winners of the last two African Nations Cups. The sides on this continent have improved a lot in the last few years – they’re going through very good times.’ He then switched the tone from praising African football in general to tomorrow night’s opponents in particular.
‘I saw Egypt in the recent Nations Cup. They’re a solid team with good aerial presence and good width… They’re strong, they play well, and they’ll be very complicated rivals. As well as this they’re playing at home. We hope everything goes well.’ He went on to admit that this squad – lacking Juan Román Riquelme, Lionel Messi and now Cambiasso – is without several players who normally would be present.
Asked about Argentina’s hopes between now and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Basile replied, ‘Argentina haven’t won a World Cup since 1986 but we’re always one of the favourites. After Pelé retired, Brazil didn’t win a title for a long time. I can count on a very good squad, and I hope that in 2010 it happens for us.’
There were also soundbites from two of the players, Javier Zanetti and Sergio Agüero. Zanetti told journalists, ‘We respect every rival equally. Egypt, from what I know of them, are going to be a very difficult side. Competition’s good for us to keep improving and consolidate as a team. Personally, I feel pride every time I put on the Argentine shirt, I enjoy those moments.’
Agüero wasn’t quite so original. ‘Even though the match against Egypt is a friendly, we’re giving it a lot of importance. I think the same as ‘Pupi‘ [Zanetti], it’s going to be a complicated match.’