Argentina coach Diego Maradona says there are roughly 10 undecided places up for grabs in his squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
The outspoken former national team great, speaking after watching his charges beat Costa Rica 3-2 in a friendly on Tuesday, said he had already decided on "60 percent" of his squad. Tuesday's match, featuring only home-based players tuning up for the resumption of the Argentine championship next weekend, provided few clues as to the likely make-up of Maradona's group for the June 11-July 11 world showpiece.
"A victory which didn't provide the necessary answers," was the verdict of Argentine daily La Nacion following a victory over a side that has not qualified for the finals and which was mostly comprised of under-21 players.
The game nonetheless provided Maradona with the opportunity to increase the number of players he has called up to 94 since he took over the role in late 2008. "Clement Rodriguez, (Jose) Sosa, (Walter) Erviti, (Juan) Mercier and (Nicolas) Gaitan impressed me," Maradona said.
I've already got some names in my head that I regard as certains, but whether they go or not will depend on their form, whether they're playing for their clubs or not.
Full-back Rodriguez, who performed well in a position that has yet to be claimed, and midfielder Sosa were the two players who strengthened their cases the most, according to the local press. "No matter what anyone says, I will continue to experiment," added Maradona, who was making his first touchline appearance since the expiration of the six-month ban issued by FIFA for his outburst at the press in the wake of the 1-0 win in Uruguay last October that sealed South Africa 2010 qualification.
The two-time world champions have no more than three or four matches in which to complete their preparations for the tournament, in which they will face Nigeria, Greece and South Korea in Group B. They host Jamaica on 10 February before travelling to Berlin to face Germany on 3 March, with fixtures against Canada and Israel possibly to follow in May.
60 per cent there
Maradona claimed on Tuesday that he had "already decided 60 percent of the squad", adding that only "Lionel Messi, Juan Sebastian Veron and Javier Mascherano have already secured a place at the World Cup."
The former Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli star is likely to name an initial 30-man group for the tournament before trimming it down to the required size. Given the figure quoted by Maradona, around 10 other players are already guaranteed a seat on the plane to South Africa. "I've already got some names in my head that I regard as certains, but whether they go or not will depend on their form, whether they're playing for their clubs or not," he said. "There are still lots of things to assess before submitting the squad."
According to the daily Clarin, aside from Messi, Veron and Mascherano, 10 other players can already pack their suitcases. They are: the goalkeepers Sergio Romero and Mariano Andujar, the defenders Gabriel Heinze, Martin Demichelis and Nicolas Otamendi, the wide midfielders Jonas Gutierrez and Angel Di Maria, and the forwards Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez.