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   June 4, 2002 | 2015 IST



France get the blues

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Argentines play down England rivalry

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Argentina attempted to take the sting out of their World Cup clash with arch-rivals England by keeping their cards hidden and sending two second string players to meet the media on Tuesday.

"A kind of classic has been created around England matches because of the (Falklands/Malvinas) war but it's not a classic, a classic is (when we play) against Brazil," midfielder Matias Almeyda said.

"This is sport and we want to try to put on a good show," said Almeyda, a veteran of the two countries' previous World Cup clash in 1998 in France, a second round match in St Etienne which Argentina won on penalties following a 2-2 draw after extra time.

Gabriel Batistuta "It's just a football match. There's nothing political about it," fellow midfielder Claudio Husain said after Argentina's practice at their World Cup retreat which was only open to the media for 15 minutes.

Husain and Almeyda are both understudies for Diego Simeone, although one of them could turn out alongside the 1998 captain if coach Marcelo Bielsa puts more emphasis in defence.

"If England have any defects (we can take advantage of) we're not going to ventilate them now," Almeyda said, using a typically Argentine expression.

"England will give us a hard 90 minutes but Argentina are in good shape, well concentrated," he said.

"But we can't think only about England, we have to keep improving to qualify," he said, contradicting team mates' comments before Argentina's opening game against Nigeria when they said they would be taking one game at a time.

"(England) tend to wait and come out at speed and they have a good aerial game," said Almeyda.

Argentina beat Nigeria 1-0 in Ibaraki on Sunday, the same day England drew 1-1 with Sweden, leaving the Argentines in the driving seat with a two-point lead in group F.


"That draw was positive for us, but the final word hasn't been said," Almeyda added.

Husain was asked about England captain David Beckham, sent off during the match in St Etienne for retaliating against Simeone.

"Beckham is a great player who stands out because of all he's done, but all of England are a good team, to be feared," Husain said.

Almeyda, who loves meeting Brazil and has scored against them, said the four times world champions had received help from the referee in their 2-1 win over Turkey in group C on Monday.

"They were helped a lot, but they looked good," he said. "They were playing difficult rivals. But the next time I don't think they'll get help, that's it."

Brazil came from behind, scoring an 86th minute winner with a dubious penalty converted by Rivaldo, who later collapsed theatrically when Turkey's Hakan Unsal kicked the ball at him when he was about the take a corner. The Turk was sent off.

With Claudio Caniggia recovering fast from his knee injury and looking set for a place on the bench on Friday, the only injury concern Argentina have is captain Roberto Ayala's pulled thigh muscle.

"He is doing separate work and undergoing therapy," press officer Coco Ventura said. It was not clear yet whether Ayala, another veteran of the 1998 meeting in St Etienne, would be fit to lead Argentina against England.

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