Sat, Mar 28, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Argentine fans snap up tickets ahead of match

AFP , MONTEVIDEO

Argentina coach Diego Maradona takes part in a training session in Buenos Aires on Thursday ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Venezuela today.

PHOTO: AP

Diego Maradona is poised for a record-breaking competitive bow as Argentina coach when he leads the double world champions into their latest World Cup qualifier against Venezuela today.

The legendary player, who has overseen two friendly wins over Scotland and France since taking charge last year, is in such demand that the Estadio Monumental venue in Buenos Aires, where ticket prices have rocketed 60 percent in a year, could be bursting at the seams.

More than 19,000 tickets, with a minimum price of 60 pesos (US$16.30) were snapped up on Thursday, generating 2.5 million pesos. Around four million pesos will be spent on tickets for the game, a new record for the stadium.

Argentina, who will also face Bolivia in La Paz next week, are currently third in the South American qualifying zone with 16 points, seven behind leaders Paraguay and just one behind bitter rivals Brazil.

Maradona succeeded Alfio Basile who resigned after a World Cup qualifying defeat to Chile last time out, won praise for his tactics in a 2-0 win over France in Marseille.

His build-up to today’s clash has not been helped by veteran playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme saying he will never turn out for a Maradona-coached Argentina side.

However, Maradona has a luxury of youth and experience to call upon from Javier Zanetti, with over 120 caps, to Barcelona star Lionel Messi and Atletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero whose links to the coach are very close — his girlfriend is Maradona’s daughter.

A month ago, Aguero and Giannina presented the 48-year-old Maradona with his first grandchild.

“Becoming a grandfather has revitalized me,” the coach said.

Manchester United striker Carlos Tevez is also enjoying the new regime.

“You get goose-bumps every time Diego talks to you. We’re very happy with the national team set-up and I’m sure Argentina are going to do very well,” Tevez said.

Brazil travel to Ecuador tomorrow with their build-up rocked by an increasingly bitter and public war of words between Robinho and Pele over drugs allegations.

Coach Dunga had been under fire after Brazil played out three uninspiring 0-0 draws at home before recapturing their form of old with a 6-2 friendly victory over Portugal and a 2-0 win against world champions Italy in London.

“We enjoy playing the way we did in these friendlies. And when we do that we’re tough to beat,” Robinho said.

Leaders Paraguay have won seven and drawn two of their qualifiers.

With the top four sides assured of places in the finals, they have one foot in South Africa.

Paraguay travel to Uruguay today.

“We’ve already made important strides but we’ve still got the final step to take,” coach Gerardo Martino said.

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