Argentina prepare to face Bolivia in WC qualifier

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Argentina's footballers have been preparing in Buenos Aires ahead of their 2006 World Cup qualifying matches against Bolivia and Colombia.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:49 IST
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Buenos Aires:

Argentina's footballers have been preparing in Buenos Aires ahead of their 2006 World Cup qualifying matches against Bolivia and Colombia. Argentina, who currently lead the South American zone qualifying group by two points, entertain Colombia next Wednesday. But first they must negotiate a tricky trip to La Paz - at 3,600 metres above sea level the Bolivian capital is one of the toughest places in the world to play international football. The Argentine football squad gathered at the AFA's (Argentinean Football Association) training ground in Eseiza, Buenos Aires on Wednesday. Argentina, who currently lead second-placed Brazil in the South American qualifying group by two points, will play two World Cup qualifying matches in the space of four days. The first is against Bolivia in La Paz on March 26, and the second against Colombia in Buenos Aires ON March 30. Top players called Coach Jose Pekerman has called up eight players from the Argentine first division, along with 25 more whom ply their trade in the top leagues around the world. Internazionale midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron and 21-year-old forward Carlos Tevez, who last year joined Corinthians of Brazil from Boca Juniors for US$18 million, have both been left out. Midfielders Javier Zanetti and Diego Placente, as well as forward Javier Saviola, will both miss the Bolivia match because of suspension. Despite the fact that Bolivia are bottom of the qualifying group, matches in La Paz always provide an extremely tough challenge due to the high altitude. Natural game But Argentine midfielder Esteban Cambiasso says that they still plan to play their natural attacking game. "We always keep the ball. It's one of our characteristics as Argentine players. It's very difficult to ever see Argentina playing a defensive game. Our style is to play with the ball, and then there will be plenty of opportunities to win the match," said Esteban Cambiasso, Argentina player. Goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri believes that they can win both games, which will set them up well for qualification. "Obviously it's very important for us to win both matches to get us closer to the World Cup, even though we are clear at the top. I believe that we have a good chance. But better to talk about it after Wednesday when we finish the match against Colombia. Then we can talk about results," said Roberto Abbondanzieri, Argentina goalkeeper. Extended team Pekerman has selected an extended 33-man squad – in view of the fact that the game in the Bolivian capital will take place 3,600 metres above sea level, and will therefore be highly debilitating on the players involved. There is speculation that the coach could use two almost entirely different teams for the two games. "We have had to consider the special factors of this match (the altitude in Bolivia) when deciding on the list of players summoned. For the time being we know that we are on the right track," Jose Pekerman, Argentina coach. Argentina are top of the South American zone qualifying group with 22 points from 11 games. Bolivia are bottom of the 10-strong group with 10 points while Colombia are sixth with 13 points. (AP)

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