Tuesday saw Diego Maradona name his second Argentina squad, in preparation for the friendly against France in Marseilles on the 11th of February. For the first time Lionel Messi was called up by El Diego – as was my mate Carlos Tevez – who, clearly motivated by my words of encouragement on Saturday night, scored for Manchester United as they battered West Brom 5-0 – along with Germán Denis, Lisandro López and… um… Walter Samuel. On Tuesday night, Checho Batista’s Under 20s drew with Ecuador to qualify for the final group of the Sudamericano Sub 20 in Venezuela.
Walter Samuel returns to the selección after more than two years out (his last appearance having been in September 2006, in Alfio Basile’s first match of his most recent spell in charge). Otherwise there are few surprises – Lionel Messi returns to the squad after Barcelona confirmed they wouldn’t hold the AFA to their agreement not to play him in friendlies if the player himself really wanted to.
In addition to the main body of the squad (listed below) there will also be some players from the Argentine league, to be called up in a few days’ time. These will include Juan Román Riquelme and Juan Sebastián Verón, and those players will fly to France on the 7th of February, thus missing the first round of matches in the Torneo Clausura.
Argentina’s Under 20s, after a slow start to their Sudamericano Sub 20 campaign, went into their match with Ecuador needing at least a draw to secure their place in the final group stage, from which the top four teams will qualify for the World Youth Cup in Egypt. They took the lead after half an hour through Cristian Gaitán, but Ecuador hit back through Jefferson Pinto and Juan Luis Anangonó to take a 2-1 lead with just under 15 minutes remaining. Right at the death, Iván Bella (pictured above) popped up to equalise, and send Argentina to the final stage, where they’ll have to be a lot better if they’re going to win the right to defend the world title they won two years ago.
Argentina squad to face France, 11th February 2009 (foreign-based players):
Juan Pablo Carrizo (Lazio, Italy)
Sergio Romero (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands)
Javier Zanetti (Internazionale, Italy)
Martín Demichelis (Bayern München, Germany)
Gabriel Heinze (Real Madrid, Spain)
Daniel Díaz (Getafe, Spain)
Nicolás Burdisso (Internazionale)
Walter Samuel (Internazionale)
Javier Mascherano (Liverpool, England)
Fernando Gago (Real Madrid)
Maximiliano Rodríguez (Atlético de Madrid, Spain)
Jonás Gutiérrez (Newcastle United, England)
Luis González (Porto, Portugal)
Angel Di María (Benfica, Portugal)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Spain)
Sergio Agüero (Atlético de Madrid)
Carlos Tevez (Manchester United, England)
Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli, Italy)
Lisandro López (Porto)
Germán Denis (Napoli)