Batista seeks Spanish identity for Argentina

BUENOS AIRES - Argentina hope to see themselves in a Spanish mirror when they take on the world champions in a friendly at River Plate's Monumental stadium on Tuesday.

Coach Sergio Batista has made key changes from Diego Maradona's World Cup side for the match against Spain, who were crowned world champions in South Africa in July.

Batista, who played alongside Maradona in Argentina's 1986 Word Cup-winning side, is looking to stamp his authority on the team after their quarter-final elimination by Germany in Cape Town.

"In both national teams there are good ball players, attackers of a similar standard," Batista told reporters at Argentina's training camp last week.

"The style is similar. This Argentina could play like Spain, easily."

Inter Milan midfielder Esteban Cambiasso, recalled by Batista after being overlooked by Maradona, said: "(Batista's) idea is for the team to have that (Spanish) identity... holding possession as much time as possible.

"We have to try that, we have the players to achieve it. One shouldn't die before trying to play like Spain," he told reporters.

PLAYMAKING ROLE

Batista looks set to hand a playmaking role to Andres D'Alessandro, who last month inspired his Brazilian side Internacional to victory in the Libertadores Cup and is back in an Argentina squad for the first time in five years.

For South Africa, Maradona turned his back on 2006 World Cup playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme and took Juan Sebastian Veron as a creative force in the middle only to keep him on the bench in the defeat by Germany.

Lionel Messi sees the match, part of the South American nation's bicentennial celebrations, as a chance to show off his country's footballing culture to his many Barcelona team mates in the Spain side.

Spain are in Argentina for the first time since the 1978 World Cup and meet their hosts on Argentine soil for the first since a 1-1 draw in a 1974 friendly.

The sides last met in Madrid last November, with a 2-1 victory for a Spain team who managed to keep Messi on a tight leash.

"We have players who know him perfectly well but, however much you control or know him, he's capable of finding solutions to any problem he faces," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said.

"He's an extraordinary player who, at the World Cup, without scoring a goal, showed he could have scored seven or eight in the group games," he told AM650 radio before Spain left Europe.

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