BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Diego Maradona disregarded the vast experience of Inter Milan midfielder Esteban Cambiasso and 136-cap record holder Javier Zanetti when he named his 30-man provisional World Cup squad on Tuesday.
Zanetti, a veteran of the 1998 and 2002 World cups, and Cambiasso, who helped Argentina reach the 2002 quarter-finals, are both key players in the Inter side that reached the Champions League final at the expense of holders Barcelona.
Coach Maradona, Argentina’s former world title-winning captain, also overlooked Olympique Marseille midfielder Lucho Gonzalez, who played at the 2006 finals, and ball winner Fernando Gago of Real Madrid.
On the other hand, he recalled Liverpool’s Maxi Rodriguez, whom he had appeared to have discarded altogether during the qualifiers, and also found room for Newcastle United’s Fabricio Coloccini.
Maradona, who has called up over 100 players during his year and a half in charge, sprang a surprise by picking several locally-based players who impressed him in the last friendly, a 4-0 home win over a weak Haiti side last week.
Colon defender Ariel Garce, who had won two caps in 2003 as a River Plate player, earned his inclusion on the basis of a good game in his third international appearance against the Haitians.
Midfielder Juan Mercier, who also won a third cap against Haiti, has been impressive for Argentine Clausura title favourites Argentinos Juniors.
Cambiasso, who has had a mere 15 minutes playing time under Maradona as a substitute in the 2-1 defeat by Spain in Madrid last November, had been part of a media clamour for inclusion due to his fine club form.
Inter central defender Walter Samuel, a veteran of the 2002 finals who missed out on Germany four years ago, is in the squad as is Inter striker Diego Milito.
Boca Juniors’ Martin Palermo was named, as expected, among seven strikers including the high-scoring European-based Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero.
Maradona, speaking before naming his squad, said he wanted Barcelona’s Messi to roam freely and not be tied down tactically while he was building a good defensive platform from which to launch Argentina’s game.
“I don’t want him stationed on the (right touch) line...All the balls have to pass through him,” Maradona told the TV channel Fox Sports in an interview recorded earlier on Tuesday.
“I’m going to defend with four centre backs, but I’m also going to have full backs available in case we need to improve coming out of defence,” he said.
Maradona may have dispensed with full back Zanetti but Garce and Clemente Rodriguez of Estudiantes de La Plata, two experienced players at club level, are his choices for the role.
Two other Estudiantes players are in the squad, playmaker Juan Sebastian Veron and attacking midfielder Jose Sosa, who has been in fine form for the South American champions since returning on loan from Bayern Munich last year.
“The national team was one of the reasons for returning to Estudiantes,” Sosa told TyC Sports. “I had the hope of coming back, playing and reaching a level that would allow me to be among the 30 who could go to the World Cup.”
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury;
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