Messi to captain strong Argentina side in Kolkata

August 19th, 2011 - 11:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Aug 19 (IANS) Soccer superstar Lionel Messi will make his debut as full-time captain but striker Carlos Tevez has been omitted from a star-studded Argentina team that will take on Venezuela in a FIFA official international friendly match to be played at the Salt Lake Stadium here Sep 2.

“The coach Alejandro Sabella has announced that Messi will captain the squad,” Celebrity Management Group executive director Bhaswar Goswami told media persons here.

The 24 year old talismanic Barcelona FC striker had earlier stood in as skipper when regular captain Javier Mascherano was rested in the match against Greece in the 2010 World Cup.

The 26-member Argentine squad - mostly comprising players turning out in European leagues - includes the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano, Martin Demichelis, Jonas Gutierrez and Pablo Zabaleta.

“There were doubts in some quarters whether Argentina will be sending their A team but now all doubts have been dispelled,” Goswami said.

This will be the crack Latin American’s side first match after the appointment of the new coach, Sabella.

“We give importance to every match. So this is also a very important game for the Argentine team,” said Julian Camino, the assistant coach of Argentina Football Association.

Seven of the players represent Spanish clubs, five are seen in action in the Italian Serie A, three play in the Portuguese league, three ply their trade for fancied English clubs, and three each in French and Russian leagues.

“We hope all the players will come for the match,” said Camino, who is on a recce to see the facilities as part of a three member delegation.

But he skirted a query on Tevez not finding a place in the side saying: “That can only be replied to by the technical director”.

The Salt Lake stadium received the go-ahead from the delegation.

“We have visited the stadium (Friday morning), We saw the practice venue (Mohun Bagan ground Thursday), and also the hotel very near the stadium. And we are happy,” said Camino, who has played for Kolkata’s East Bengal in 1988.

However, later replying to a query on the practice venue, Camino said the players could also practise at the match venue.

“We will give the report to the technical director, who will be deciding where we will be practising”.

On why Argentina has failed to find a like partner for Messi in the striking zone, he said: “There is nobody like Messi. He is in a class of his own”.

Asked to compare Messi with the legendary ex-footballer Diego Maradona, he said: “It is very difficult to answer this. Both of them are best in their team. And both are better than (Brazilian genius) Pele”.

Camino said Messi was looking forward to coming here.

“Messi is loved all over. He knows he will be well received here. And he is very much willing to come here.”

When a scribe pointed out that the Salt Lake stadium had a 1,20,000 capacity, the Argentine said: “We hope the stadium will be full. And we are also bringing a good team. And we hope it will be a memorable game for us”.

However, Camino said their team was not accustomed to playing on the artificial turf that the Salt Lake stadium has, but thought that the surface was good. “Hope we can do our best. Hope we can play the way we are used to”.

While the support staff of the squad will arrive Aug 27, Sabella is scheduled to arrive the next day along with some of the players. Messi and other players will descend early Aug 29.

Squad : Lionel Messi (c), Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Javier Mascherano, Ever Banega, Eduardo Salvio, Martin Demichelis, Federico Fernandez, Ricardo Alvarez, Nicolas Burdisso, Mariano Andujar, Sergio Romero, Ezequiel Garay, Fabian Rinaudo, Nicolas Otamendi, Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta, Jonas Gutierrez, Javier Pastore, Luis Gonzalez, Lisandro Lopez, Cristian Ansaldi, Nicolas Pareja, Marcos Rojo, Jose Sosa and
Esteban Andrada.

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