Nigeria defend under-strength Argentina squad

Argentina line up against Germany at the 2010 World Cup
Just one of Argentina's XI that lined up in the World Cup quarter-final against Germany - Nicolas Otamendi (no.15) - will be in Nigeria

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has defended Argentina's under-strength squad for the Abuja friendly on 1 June.

Locals had held high hopes that Barcelona duo Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano would be among the squad.

But the pair are absent from an effective 'B' squad, which contrasts to the hype surrounding the clash.

"Messi and Mascherano are playing in the Champions League final against Manchester United on 28 May," said NFF secretary general Musa Amadu.

"The Argentina team will leave Buenos Aires for Nigeria on 28 May, so naturally you wouldn't expect those two players to be on the trip."

When the friendly was announced, NFF chairman Aminu Maigari said "we are looking forward to welcoming big names in world football to our country come June".

Instead, Carlos Tevez (Manchester City), Maxi Rodriguez (Liverpool), Diego Milito (Inter Milan) and Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid) are conspicuous by their absence.

The Nigerian media has launched a vociferous attack on Batista's squad, which also excludes Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain and Angel di Maria, describing it as "ludicrous".

The game against the former world champions at the Abuja National Stadium has attracted massive publicity and relatively high-ticket prices.

So Amadu has been forced to play down the absence of the South Americans' major stars, with just two players - Nicolas Otamendi and Mario Bolatti - included from last year's World Cup squad.

"Argentina have a new coach [Batista] who is preparing for the Copa America in July," said Amadu.

"You would expect that the new coach would want to blood a number of new players and see if they can fit into his tactics and team plans.

"That is why there are a number of new players in the team."

Batista took charge of Argentina last November, in place of World Cup coach Diego Maradona.

Maradona's side met Nigeria at the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, when Argentina won 1-0 in the group stages.

The Super Eagles will use the match as a warm-up for their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Ethiopia on the weekend of 4-5 June.

Argentina, who won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986, take on Nigeria before facing Poland in Warsaw four days later.

Argentina squad:

Goalkeepers: Oscar Ustari (Getafe), Agustin Marchesin (Lanús).

Defenders: Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal), Nicolas Otamendi (Porto), Ezequiel Garay (Real Madrid), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Marcos Angeleri (Sunderland), Federico Fazio (Sevilla), Emiliano Insúa (Fenerbahce).

Midfielders: Tino Costa (Valencia), Nicolas Bertolo (Zaragoza), Mario Bolatti (Internacional), Fernando Belluschi (Porto), Alejandro Cabral (Legia Warsaw), Diego Perotti (Sevilla), Mauro Formica (Blackburn).

Forwards: Pablo Piatti (Almería), Marco Ruben (Villarreal), Jonathan Cristaldo (Metallist), Nicolas Gaitán (Benfica), Mauro Boselli (Genoa), Franco Jara (Benfica).

Top Stories