High expectations for Argentine league season

BUENOS AIRES - Juan Sebastian Veron's silence on Argentina's World Cup performance in South Africa has been eloquent.

The Estudiantes captain has preferred to put pen to paper on a new one-year contract with the club from La Plata and concentrate on a good finale to his career.

Argentine fans will be looking to the country's clubs like Estudiantes to restore some pride in the national game after a World Cup that started promisingly for Diego Maradona's team but ended his a 4-0 quarter-final rout by Germany.

Veron travelled to South Africa as a key anchor for Maradona's side but surprisingly was not even sent on as a substitute as the Germans overran a lightweight midfield.

There is no doubt, though, that the 35-year-old Veron has already had a huge influence on the Argentine league since his return in 2006 from a decade in Europe and Estudiantes were only pipped to the post by Argentinos Juniors in May for the Clausura title at the end of last season.

With Argentina's "Big Two" struggling last season, the titles went to so-called smaller clubs with Banfield securing their first ever championship in the Apertura in December.

Change, therefore, has been the name of the game in the off-season.

BORGHI BET

Boca Juniors had fraught negotiations to retain the services of Juan Roman Riquelme, Argentina's big absentee in South Africa over past differences with Maradona, but securing Claudio Borghi as coach was a coup.

Borghi, a member of Argentina's 1986 World Cup-winning squad who made his name as a coach in Chile, steered his former club Argentinos Juniors to the title. Boca open away to Godoy Cruz, last season's surprise team from Mendoza, on Sunday.

A coach who espouses good, attacking football, Borghi appeared to caution Boca fans as to their expectations when he said: "We'll try to have a dignified campaign and win the most number of points but I'd like Boca to start playing well."

Arch-rivals River Plate, who need a big boost to their three-season points average to stave off the threat of relegation, have been busy in the market under Angel Cappa, who took charge in April, five matches from the end of the Clausura.

Some good results showed immediate promise before a 5-1 rout at home by modest Tigre, ironically River's rivals in their Apertura opener, also at home in the Monumental, on Sunday.

"I'm anxious (to start) and I don't feel pressure," Cappa said. "On the contrary, I'm happy and honoured by the position I occupy and the anxiety I feel is for the match to start to show off our (pre-season) work."

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