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   June 5, 2002 | 1920 IST



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Ayala to miss England clash

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Argentina's captain Roberto Ayala will not lead the World Cup favourites in their group F match against England in Sapporo on Friday.

"But if it were the World Cup final he would play," the team's press officer Coco Ventura quoted the coaching staff as saying on Wednesday.

Ayala missed Argentina's opening group match, a 1-0 win over Nigeria on Sunday, after pulling a thigh muscle while warming up.

"He is still working separately (from the squad), but he's okay," Ventura said. "They're being careful with him but he'd play if it were the final."

Ventura said he did not know whether Ayala would be made available for Argentina's last group match against Sweden on June 12.

This will probably depend on the result of Friday's clash at the Sapporo Dome.

If Argentina win and secure their qualification for the second round, they will probably not risk Ayala, a veteran of Argentina's 1998 second round meeting with England, against Sweden.

Juan Sebastian Veron captained Argentina against Nigeria.

Diego Placente stepped into the defence at the last minute and should keep his place for the England match.

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