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Argentina drop veteran duo Wednesday 6 November, 2002

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Roma¡¦s Gabriel Batistuta and Diego Simeone of Lazio have been dropped by Argentina boss Marcelo Bielsa.

The South Americans take on Japan in a Saitama friendly on November 20, but the capital duo have been ignored.

However, there were calls for six other Italian based Argentines. Inter stars Javier Zanetti, Matias Almeyda and Hernan Crespo have been included.

They will be joined by Walter Samuel of Roma and the Lazio duo of Claudio Lopez and Juan Pablo Sorin.

Goalkeepers: Roberto Bonano (Barcelona), Pablo Cavallero (Celta Vigo)

Defenders: Roberto Ayala (Valencia), Mauricio Pochettino (Paris SG), Diego Placente (Bayer Leverkusen), Facundo Quiroga (Sporting Lisbon), Juan Pablo Sorin (Lazio), Walter Samuel (Roma), Javier Zanetti (Inter)

Midfielders: Lionel Scaloni (Deportivo La Coruna), Juan Sebastian Veron (Manchester United), Juan Roman Riquelme (Barcelona), Matias Almeyda (Inter), Santiago Solari (Real Madrid), Pablo Aimar (Valencia), Kily Gonzalez (Valencia).

Forwards: Claudio Lopez (Lazio), Ariel Ortega (Fenerbahce), Javier Saviola (Barcelona), Hernan Crespo (Inter).

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Friday, November 8, 2002
Japan without Europe-based trio for Argentina game
By Alastair Himmer

TOKYO, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Japan coach Zico confirmed on Friday that European-based trio Junichi Inamoto, Hidetoshi Nakata and Shinji Ono would not be available for the home friendly against a full-strength Argentina on November 20.

Inamoto: Club commitment
(MatthewAshton/Empics)
With midfielders Inamoto (Fulham), Nakata (Parma) and Ono (Feyenoord) missing due to club commitments, the Brazilian said he would take the opportunity to blood some new players in his second match in charge at Saitama Stadium.

'Argentina will obviously be a big test, so I was hoping to pick the same squad as I did for Jamaica (last month),' said Zico, who will name his squad on Monday.

'Inamoto, Nakata and Ono are unavailable for selection but I know what they are capable of. The match against Argentina gives me a chance to have a look at some other players.'

Japan were disappointing in a 1-1 home draw against Jamaica on October 16 in their first match under Zico, who took over from Frenchman Philippe Troussier after the World Cup.

But Zico is set to stick with Reggina midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura, despite a poor performance on his international return, and striker Takayuki Suzuki, who has seen little first-team action at Belgian champions Genk this season.

'Consistency will be an important factor for Japan in terms of team selection, so I will not be making too many changes when I pick my squad for the Argentina match,' said Zico.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Argentina have named a strong 20-man squad for their first match since their shock first-round exit from the World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Marcelo Bielsa, who kept his job as coach despite failing to lead Argentina into the second round, has, however, left out experienced pair Diego Simeone and Gabriel Batistuta.

Batistuta said after the World Cup that he had played his last match for Argentina but there has been speculation since that the 33-year-old was having second thoughts.

Argentina spoiled Japan's World Cup debut in 1998 when the South Americans won 1-0 in their opening group match. Batistuta was the scorer.

soccernet
 

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Tuesday, November 12, 2002
Zico prepares Japan for must-win game with Argentina

TOKYO, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Japan coach Zico will have the weight of recent history against him when the Asian champions face Argentina next week in a friendly that neither team can really afford to lose.

Zico: Must-win game
(TonyMarshall/Empics)
Defeat in Saitama on November 20 could bring a swift end to the honeymoon period for Zico, whose team failed to impress in a 1-1 draw against Jamaica last month in his first match since taking over from Philippe Troussier after the World Cup.

Japan were beaten 2-0 at home by Brazil in March 1999 in their second game under Troussier, who was summoned for crisis talks by the Japan Football Association following an abject performance.

That was the beginning of a rocky period between the Frenchman and the JFA that only began to improve after Japan won the Asian Cup in Lebanon in 2000.

Zico, in contrast, enjoys the full backing of the JFA, despite never having managed a team before.

He had previously been at J-League champions Kashima Antlers as a player and technical director since 1991.

But the Brazilian knows that results are everything and he named a combative 20-man squad in the absence of European-based players Junichi Inamoto, Hidetoshi Nakata and Shinji Ono.

Zico said he would warn his players to 'expect the unexpected' from a full-strength Argentina who can ill afford to lose their first match since their shock first-round exit from the World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Not surprisingly, Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa picked the strongest squad available, with the likes of Juan Sebastian Veron, Pablo Aimar and Hernan Crespo all set to make the trip.

'THE REVENGE'

With reputations at stake after the World Cup, Argentina are likely to approach the match against Japan as anything but a friendly. The media in Argentina have already dubbed the match 'The Revenge' for Bielsa.

However, Zico insists that Japan are up to the task, even with Inamoto, Nakata and Ono missing due to club commitments.

The 49-year-old has staked his own reputation on a 4-4-2 system that Japan last deployed under Takeshi Okada at the 1998 World Cup in France.

Reggina playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura keeps his place and will start alongside the more defensively minded Koji Nakata, Takashi Fukunishi and Mitsuo Ogasawara in a solid-looking midfield.

'I will drill into my players the need for caution for 90 minutes. Argentina have a lot of skilful players, but we are well organised and will work hard to deny them space,' said Zico.

While a cautious approach makes sense for Japan, Zico does have the option of bringing Brazilian-born midfielder Alex off the bench to inject some extra pace into the attack.

However, history points to difficult night for Japan, who have lost their last three matches against Argentina, including a 1-0 defeat in their last meeting at the 1998 World Cup.

Defeat to the South Americans would certainly be no disgrace for Japan - and the JFA are unlikely to push the panic button - but at the very least Zico will be hoping for more urgency and cohesion than his team showed against Jamaica.

Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa picked the strongest squad available, with the likes of Juan Sebastian Veron, Pablo Aimar and Hernan Crespo all set to make the trip.

'I will drill into my players the need for caution for 90 minutes. Argentina have a lot of skilful players, but we are well organised and will work hard to deny them space,' said Zico.

While a cautious approach makes sense for Japan, Zico does have the option of bringing Brazilian-born midfielder Alex off the bench to inject some extra pace into the attack.

However, history points to a difficult night for Japan, who have lost their last three matches against Argentina, including a 1-0 defeat in their last meeting at the 1998 World Cup.

Defeat to the South Americans would certainly be no disgrace for Japan, and the JFA are unlikely to push the panic button, but at the very least Zico will be hoping for more urgency and cohesion than his team showed against Jamaica.

soccernet
 

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Tuesday, November 19, 2002
Argentina want win in Japan

TOKYO, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Argentina are determined to exorcise the ghosts of World Cup failure by beating an under-strength Japan in Saitama on Wednesday.
Japan will be without European-based trio Junichi Inamoto, Hidetoshi Nakata and Shinji Ono due to club commitments.

To make matters worse, their Brazilian coach Zico will miss what would have been his second match in charge after flying back to Brazil following the sudden death of his mother at the weekend.

It will be Argentina's first match since their shock first-round exit at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa, who kept his job despite the failure, has picked the strongest squad available and warned that his team would not treat the game as a friendly.

'This is an extremely important game for Argentina and it is crucial for us to come away with a win,' he said.

Argentina have been hit by the withdrawal through injury of Spanish-based midfielders Pablo Aimar of Valencia and Juan Roman Riquelme of Barcelona.

But Bielsa insisted that nothing short of victory would do against Japan.

'The injuries to Aimar and Riquelme will not be a factor. This is a very flexible squad of players, who all work together for the good of the team,' he said.

RESTORE PRIDE

While victory against Japan would hardly erase the memory of their World Cup disappointment, it would restore some pride, especially if Argentina were to win comfortably - as they should against a weakened Japan team.

'The World Cup left a bad taste for us,' striker Hernan Crespo said. 'We failed to live up to expectations and we went out embarrassingly early. Yes, a lot of things went wrong in the World Cup but this is a chance to make up for it.'

Japan assistant coach Masakuni Yamamoto, meanwhile, is under no illusions about the size of the task facing the home side.

'Argentina have the same coach and players as the World Cup and they are back in the country where things went wrong for them,' he said.

For Japan it could even be a case of damage limitation, he added.

'They hardly need any extra motivation after the World Cup. The start will be absolutely crucial for us. We really need to get through the first 20 minutes with conceding a goal,' Yamamoto said.

Probable teams:

Japan (4-4-2): Seigo Narazaki; Nobuhisa Yamada, Yutaka Akita, Naoki Matsuda, Eisuke Nakanishi; Takashi Fukunishi, Koji Nakata, Mitsuo Ogasawara, Shunsuke Nakamura; Naohiro Takahara, Takayuki Suzuki

Argentina (3-4-3): Roberto Bonano; Walter Samuel, Roberto Ayala, Mauricio Pochettino; Kily Gonzalez, Juan Sebastian Veron, Santiago Solari, Lionel Scaloni; Hernan Crespo, Javier Saviola, Ariel Ortega

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Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Full-time: Japan v Argentina
Soccernet.com


SAITAMA, Japan, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Argentina, playing for the first time since their World Cup debacle, struck twice in three minutes to beat Japan 2-0 in a friendly international on Wednesday.

The Argentines took the lead two minutes into the second half with a goal by midfielder Juan Pablo Sorin and followed up in the 49th minute when striker Hernan Crespo headed home.

The victory in Argentina's first match since their shock elimination in the first round of the World Cup finals in Japan in June was a successful start to coach Marcelo Bielsa's second stint in charge.

But the healing process for Bielsa's team, who had started the finals among the favourites, will take a long time.

After a goalless first half in which the understrength Japanese side had the better chances, Argentine midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron shocked the home crowd by engineering two goals.

Japan were first caught dozing when Ariel Ortega, fed by Veron, held off a defender in the penalty area and found midfielder Sorin, who turned sharply and fired past goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki.

Veron found space in midfield again two minutes later, spreading the ball right to the lively Ortega, whose cross was headed in powerfully by Crespo at the far post.

Japan were without several of their best European players and their coach, Brazilian Zico, who returned home after his mother died suddenly last weekend.

But they still managed to give the South Americans several scares, mainly through their bustling forward Naohiro Takahara.

'We heard Japan's best players weren't playing so maybe we underestimated them a bit,' Veron said after the game.

'They are a very quick and skilful side, and it was just a question of believing in ourselves.'

The victory was sweet relief for Bielsa, who had picked his strongest squad and insisted that nothing less than victory would do.

'It's been a difficult time for us, so for the team to come and give a good performance like this was a very positive thing,' Bielsa said.

Their best chance of the match came in the first half.

A mis-hit shot by Akira Narahashi found its way to a surprised Takahara but the forward dragged his shot wide with only the keeper to beat.

POOR FINISHING

Argentina's defence looked shaky several times and Japan should have pulled at least one goal back, but suffered from their usual lack of finishing power.

Fine work by Takahara, easily Japan's best player, should have been better rewarded in the second half when he found Yasuhito Endo in space on the edge of the area but the substitute failed to keep his header on target.

Japan's Brazilian-born midfielder Alex Santos added urgency to the attack after coming on midway through the second half, and went agonisingly close with a free-kick after being fouled on the edge of the penalty area.

'Both teams created good chances,' Santos said. 'The only difference between us was that they took them and we didn't. That's what we have to work on, although it wasn't a bad performance.'

In a free-flowing game, Argentina also had chances to extend their lead. Claudio Lopez almost found the net with a spectacular volley from an Ortega cross in the second half, but his effort flew just over the bar.

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