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 May 7, 2002 | 1020 IST

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Caniggia, Batistuta in Argentina's squad

Veteran striker Claudio Caniggia was confirmed on Monday as a member of Argentina's World Cup squad provided he recovers fully from the injury he suffered in the Scottish Cup final on Saturday.

The 35-year-old Caniggia, who has played in two World Cups but missed the 1998 tournament in France, was among 12 players named by coach Marcelo Bielsa to begin training from Tuesday in Rome for the Korea/Japan finals that begin on May 31.

Caniggia injured his knee early in the Cup final his side Rangers won 3-2 against Old Firm rivals Celtic in Glasgow and feared for the worst at first. His progress will be closely monitored in Rome.

Bielsa told a news conference before leaving for Rome where Argentina will begin their World Cup countdown, that all 12 would be in his 23-man squad for the finals, where they face Nigeria, England and Sweden in group F, injuries permitting.

Top strikers Gabriel Batistuta and Hernan Crespo were both named among an Italian-based contingent whose club commitments have concluded.

The exception from Italy is midfielder Matias Almeyda whose club Parma play the second leg of the Italian Cup final against Juventus this weekend.

There was no room for Bologna striker Julio Cruz, who scored in the 1-1 draw against Wales in Cardiff in February.

Cruz is unlikely to make it even if Caniggia fails to regain full fitness with Barcelona's Javier Saviola waiting in the wings.

Argentina, favourites to win their third World Cup, will congregate at Lazio's training facilities and travel to Japan once the squad is complete.


In other matters, Bielsa said that he had never thought of resigning due to the Argentina Football Association's difficulties in paying him.

"The thought of not going to the World Cup never crossed my mind," Bielsa said on Monday.

"Any difficulties I may have with my employers are typical of the problems today in Argentina. But I think it's fair to demand what we agreed, I'm not ashamed of this.

"Collective interests come before individual ones. That's the way I behave."

He also admitted that his team were among the favourites.

"Argentina is in the elite at the World Cup, where you can also find France, Spain, Brazil, Germany Italy, an African team such as Cameroon, and England," he said.

"We have the material that our obligations demand from us, but we have to show why we are in the favourites' position."

Bielsa is expected to name his full squad just before the May 21 deadline.

The only two Argentine-based players in the squad, midfielders Ariel Ortega and Claudio Husain of league leaders River Plate, travelled with Bielsa and his coaching staff.

Boca Juniors playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme has been left behind, although this could be because his team face a Libertadores Cup quarter-final tie on Wednesday.


Bielsa has purposely not named a number of certainties, including Manchester United's Juan Sebastian Veron, because they still have end-of-season club commitments.

Bayer Leverkusen defender Diego Placente and Real Madrid midfielder Santiago Solari, if picked, will be the last to link with the squad after in the Champions League final in Glasgow on May 15.

Left wing-back Juan Pablo Sorin, who scored in last month's 1-0 win over Germany in Stuttgart, will be another late arrival after club commitments with Cruzeiro in Brazil.

With the Spanish league season still not over, also missing are Roberto Ayala, Pablo Aimar and Kily Gonzalez of newly-crowned champions Valencia and three Spain-based goalkeepers -- German Burgos of promoted Atletico Madrid, Barcelona's Roberto Bonano and Pablo Cavallero of Celta Vigo.

Beilsa said he would also wait until the last possible minute to see if defender Nelson Vivas, who underwent a knee operation at the start of March, would recover in time.


Defenders: Jose Chamot (AC Milan), Mauricio Pochettino (Paris St Germain), Walter Samuel (AS Roma).

Midfielders: Diego Simeone (Lazio), Javier Zanetti (Inter Milan), Marcelo Gallardo (Monaco), Ariel Ortega (River Plate), Claudio Husain (River Plate).

Forwards: Claudio Caniggia (Rangers), Gabriel Batistuta (AS Roma), Hernan Crespo (Lazio), Claudio Lopez (Lazio)

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