In an hour and a half, Argentina will play their first post-World Cup friendly with an entirely foreign-based squad, under the caretaker leadership of Sergio Batista, the youth teams’ manager for the AFA. Lionel Messi arrived in Dublin last night and will play some part, but the main pre-match talking point has been provided by Carlos Tevez, who’s kicked up a bit of a fuss by criticising AFA president Julio Grondona’s treatment of former manager Diego Maradona.
Tevez claimed that, ‘Grondona didn’t go through with his word,’ in phrasing similar to that used by Diego Maradona in the press conference the latter gave the day after the announcement that his contract as Argentina manager wouldn’t be renewed. ‘If I get the chance to say this to Grondona’s face, I will do,’ Tevez continued, ‘and I don’t care if [that means] I’m absent for the selección’s next match. The directorship of the AFA leaves a lot to be desired.’
Sergio Batista, the interim manager, may not have enjoyed hearing that; if Tevez’s great recent form is carried on into the coming season he might be wondering whether to drop the man who’s mouthed off about his bosses, or to call up one of the team’s most important players. Considering the time between now and the end of the year could be seen as a job interview for him, that may not be an easy choice to make. Tevez won’t be starting against Ireland in Dublin though.
Batista has elected for a more balanced, solid central midfield than Maradona used during the World Cup, going for a 4-1-4-1 with the wide men in midfield likely to be given much more attacking roles than the middle two. With Ever Banega and Fernando Gago joining Javier Mascherano in the middle, Messi and Ángel Di María will be doing the running behind Gonzalo Higuaín. At right back, Nicolás Burdisso will be used, and Martín Demichelis, in spite of some (I’ll be generous) mixed performances in South Africa, keeps his starting place.
Argentina starting XI vs Republic of Ireland, international friendly, 11th August 2010 (manager: Sergio Batista)
Burdisso —- Demichelis —- Samuel —- Heinze
Messi —- Banega —- Gago —- Di María
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