Argentina Camp Focus – Tevez set to start as tournament kicks-off

Carlos Tevez is in line for a surprise return to the Argentina starting XI just a few days after his place in the squad was in jeopardy.

Argentinean news network Cancha Llena reported that Tevez lined up alongside Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lionel Messi in a three man attack for a practice match between Argentina’s probable starting line-up and their reserves. As host nation, la Albiceleste kick off the 2011 Copa America against Bolivia in la Plata on Friday.

Tevez hasn’t featured for his country since pulling out of new Coach Sergio Batista’s first game in full time charge against Brazil in November, only to recover in time to play for Manchester City a couple of days later. Batista recently traveled to Europe to catch up with prominent members of his squad, but after visiting Manchester to speak to Pablo Zabaleta, the ’86 World Cup winner declined to meet Tevez claiming the City man, ‘wasn’t high on his priorities.’

It may seem unapparent over here given Tevez’s showings in the Premier League, but his performances in the national shirt have scarcely warranted inclusion. As la Albiceleste bumbled their way through World Cup qualifying, Tevez started eleven games, was sent-off twice and scored just one. His record for Argentina stands at an unremarkable 13 goals in 59 games, and a couple of months back he was moaning about the strains of international football. With Batista hardly lacking in alternative striking options it appeared Tevez would miss the tournament with Batista ready to base his attack round Messi as a central striker. However, Carlitos’ rags to riches rise has made him a cult hero back home meaning Batista was forced to bow to populist demand.

Such u-turns again ask questions over who has the biggest say-so in Argentinean football. Their FA president Julio Grondona had been embroiled in a decades old row with Diego Maradona before appointing the national demi-god as team Coach in 2009. It was also Grondona who did not want to incur the wrath of the masses by sacking el Diego after the South Africa shambles, instead, he sacked his whole back room staff prompting Maradona’s inevitable resignation. Batista was an underwhelming choice as national Coach, especially given the identity of his predecessor and any minor trip or fall will be meted out with significant disapproval from the ever expectant public. And so it seems Batista has backtracked to protect himself, rather than go with his previously unpopular hunch to omit Tevez.

Elsewhere there were few real surprises in the rest of the team. Sergio Romero started the warm-up game in goal, with Javier Zanetti, Nicolas Burdisso, Gabriel Milito and Marcos Rojo making up the back four. Skipper Javier Mascherano was supported by Esteban Cambiasso and Ever Banega behind Tevez, Lavezzi and Messi. There was no place in the side for man of the moment Javier Pastore.

Just four games into his reign as Argentina’s national coach, Sergio Batista already has the presence of a dead man walking. But by picking Tevez and basing a team around Messi, he’ll make sure he doesn’t go down alone.

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