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Argentina ready for the challenge, says Caballero

Goalkeeper says lack of enough match practice not to harm them

Image Credit: AP
Argentina’s goalkeeper Willy Caballero, left, holds a ball during a team training session at the Sports Center FC Barcelona Joan Gamper, in Sant Joan Despi, Spain, Friday, June 8, 2018. Argentina opens the World Cup against Iceland on June 16 in Moscow.
Gulf News

Moscow: Argentina goalkeeper Willy Caballero has insisted that the two-time world champions are well prepared for the 2018 Fifa World Cup despite playing only one warm-up match.

The Argentines beat Haiti 4-0 in Buenos Aires on May 30 before a friendly against Israel slated for June 9 was cancelled, according to Xinhua.

“It’s true that with the cancellation of the match against Israel, we had less match practice,” Caballero told a press conference on Wednesday.

Argentina will open in the tournament against Iceland here on Saturday before meeting Croatia and Nigeria in Group D.

Caballero, who plays for Mexico’s Tigres UANL, is expected to be the team’s first-choice goalkeeper following a serious knee injury suffered by Sergio Romero late last month.

“The important thing is to be ready on Saturday and I’m convinced that we prepared as best we could,” the 36-year-old said.

“We’ve done a lot of physical work and as a result we are very fit. We’ve also done a lot of collective training, working on both defensive and attacking aspects.”

Caballero said that anything less than a semi-final appearance would be considered a failure in Russia. But he recognised that only a victory in the final on July 15 would atone for Argentina’s extra-time loss to Germany in the decider of the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

“It’s going to be very difficult but we are going to give our all in every match,” he said.

“We’ll leave our soul on the pitch and, hopefully, that will allow us to get further than last time.”

Meanwhile, former Argentina star Javier Zanetti said it would be a “great satisfaction” for his country to host the 2030 World Cup as part of a joint bid alongside Uruguay and Paraguay.

The 44-year-old Zanetti appeared at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups and played 143 times for Argentina, a record he shares with Javier Mascherano.

“[The bid] would be a great satisfaction for us as a country after we organised it in 1978, for us to organise such a competition like this again that makes the country grow,” Zanetti told reporters at Conmebol’s Casa del Futbol in Moscow.

The joint bid is the only confirmed candidate so far for the centenary tournament, although the bidding process is not due to open for several years yet.

“I always see Argentina with great players,” said Zanetti, now vice-president at Inter Milan, where he spent 19 years as a player.

“I hope that in the first game, which is the most difficult as it’s the first of the World Cup, the team does well and sets itself up for what follows.”

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