x (genbu_no_miko24) wrote in ontd_football,

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And Now back to our regularly schedule programming: Argentina boss vows to let Messi enjoy Japan gam

TOKYO — Argentina boss Sergio Batista has vowed to give Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi free rein in Friday's friendly against Japan, which may prove crucial to his credibility as caretaker coach.

"Lionel is physically all set to play," Batista told reporters Thursday on the eve of the match before a sold-out crowd at the 64,000-seat Saitama Stadium in Saitama, north of Tokyo. "I want him to enjoy the game."

But Batista said he was taking nothing for granted, although Argentina have beaten Japan in all of their six previous encounters and stand fifth in the FIFA rankings, 25 places above the hosts.

"I think it's going to be a very tough match as we have seen how Japan develop themselves after the World Cup," he said. "We'll fight seriously even if it's a friendly, because the Argentine national team must win any match."

Batista, who took over from legendary Diego Maradona after Argentina crumbled to Germany in the World Cup quarter-finals, hopes to extend his short-term contract, due to expire in December, and cannot afford a defeat to the Asian outsiders.

Messi arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday, putting to rest fears he might miss the international due to an ankle injury sustained in Barcelona's 2-1 away win over Atletico Madrid in La Liga on September 19.

The reigning FIFA World Player of the Year recovered in time and scored the opener in a 1-1 draw against Real Mallorca at home on Sunday.

His trip to Japan has earned the Argentina Football Association a 200,000 dollar bonus.

The Argentina match is former AC Milan boss Alberto Zaccheroni's debut as Japan coach. He signed up in late August after the Blue Samurai reached the last-16 in South Africa in their best World Cup performance ever on foreign soil.

The 57-year-old Italian has managed six Serie A sides but Japan is his first job with a national team or overseas club.

He guided AC Milan to the scudetto in 1998-99 but has not won a title since.

"Japan's basic offensive skills are fine," said Zacchenori, who watched from the stands as his side won two friendlies at home against Paraguay and Guatemala in early September as he had yet to obtain a work visa.

"But, additionally, I am using my experience to teach them what they need at international levels."

After another friendly away against traditional rivals South Korea on October 12, Zaccheroni will lead Japan to the Asian Cup in January in Qatar, where the three-time champions will try to regain the title they lost in 2007.

Batista's 22-strong squad also feature Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez, Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuain and Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano.

The coach will be hoping to maintain his 100 percent record after his side beat Ireland 1-0 away on August 12 and crushed world champions Spain 4-1 at home on September 7.

Batista called Japan a "very disciplined" team, praising CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda for his "high-level skills."

Japan's squad miss two World Cup centre backs, Yuji Nakazawa and Brazilian-born Marcus Tulio Tanaka, due to injury.

In move to boost Japan's firepower, Zaccheroni named Honda, new Tom Tomsk signing Daisuke Matsui and Borussia Dortmund's rookie and goal-scoring machine Shinji Kagawa in the squad.

"It may be just a friendly for Argentina but it will be give us a precious and rare experience. We will think only about winning," said Honda, 24, who scored two goals in the World Cup.

Domo Arigato
Tags: friendlies, lionel messi, nt: argentina, nt: japan, oh god please no

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