Some pre-season action

Pipita replaces Ronaldo
Boca Juniors’ squad took off for Europe on Sunday in readiness to take part in the Audi Cup in Munich (their first match is on Wednesday against Manchester United), but over the weekend there have already been some Argentine clubs and players in pre-season action. River Plate beat Everton thanks to a great Ariel Ortega effort in Canada, Gonzalo Higuaín came on for Cristian Ronaldo late on in the Peace Cup, and Diego Milito scored twice for Internazionale to defeat AC Milan and claim third place in a four team tournament in the States. Also, Diego Maradona has named the home-based players who’ll join the Argentines Abroad in the squad (to be announced during the week) for the selección‘s friendly away to Russia in August.

Argentina will play the friendly in Moscow on the 12th August, and Diego Maradona is likely to take the chance to work through ideas of which players will feature against Brazil in El Gigante Del Arroyito at the start of September in the World Cup qualifiers. He’s already confirmed that Huracán midfielder Mario Bolatti, Estudiantes’ Copa Libertadores-winning captain Juan Sebastián Verón, Boca midfielder Sebastián Battaglia, Vélez Sarsfield defender Nicolás Otamendi and Estudiantes full back Emiliano Papa will be in the squad. Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Juampi Carrizo and Mariano Andújar are also nailed-on inclusions of the players plying their trades abroad. The rest of the squad will be announced on Tuesday or Wednesday this week.

In the pre-season friendlies, though, some other players have already started to stake their claims. Diego Milito started early, scoring for his new club Inter against their city rivals after just four minutes. He doubled his tally to make the final score of 2-0 with quarter-of-an-hour remaining. The match was the third-place decider in something called the World Football Challenge, which was won by Chelsea just ahead of Club América de México. Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso also started for Inter,

HEGS readers with long memories might remember that back in 2007, River Plate took part in something called the Peace Cup in South Korea. That pre-season tournament has moved on somewhat from that first four-team format, and now features twelve clubs in its 2009 incarnation in Andalusia, including last year’s Copa Libertadores winners Liga de Quito. Real Madrid are also featuring, and on Sunday they drew 1-1 with Al-Ittihad of Saudi Arabia. Raúl put the Spaniards ahead, but Al-Ittihad, managed by former Racing and Independiente midfielder Gabriel Humberto Calderón, equalised later on with a header from a free kick. Ezequiel Garay and Fernando Gago started for Madrid, and Gonzalo Higuaín replaced world record signing Cristiano Ronaldo in the second half after an underwhelming showing from the Portuguese.

Also coming off the bench was 2009 HEGS / Mundo Albiceleste Best Argentine Abroad Lionel Messi, who took to the pitch as a substitution for Barcelona against Al-Ahly of Egypt in a 4-1 win in the Wembley Cup. La Pulga didn’t do very much, but at least his movement didn’t look impeded by his recent right thigh injury. And Javier Mascherano came on with 30 minutes left of Liverpool’s 5-0 stroll against the Singapore national side. Emiliano Insúa watched the whole game from the bench.

And two fantastic lobs from North America: in a friendly in Canada, Ariel Ortega wore the number 10 shirt and the captain’s armband for River Plate and scored with a cracking chip as the Millonarios beat England’s Everton 1-0. Meanwhile, in a competitive match, Claudio López did even better. In the MLS, Kansas City Wizards were playing Los Angeles Galaxy when, in the 26th minute and on the counter-attack, López noticed Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts off his line, and scored from inside his own half. The match finished 1-1. Bizarrely, when these two teams played each other last year in LA, David Backham scored from 70 yards out. You could call that karma.

Diego Milito for Internazionale Milano vs AC Milan:

Claudio López for Kansas City Wizards vs LA Galaxy:

Ariel Ortega for River Plate vs Everton:

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