PRETORIA - Midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron will miss Argentina's World Cup Group B match against South Korea at Johannesburg's Soccer City on Thursday with a minor leg muscle injury.
Coach Diego Maradona, who confirmed an otherwise unchanged team, said he did not want to run the risk of Veron aggravating his right calf muscle strain and losing the player for the rest of the tournament.
"It's hard to leave Seba (Veron) out but there are also risks playing him. I don't want the World Cup to end for him, I need him. He understood it was the best thing for the squad," Maradona said.
Maradona praised his 35-year-old senior player, a veteran of the 1998 and 2002 World Cups who missed out in 2006, for his performance on Saturday and handling of his injury.
"La Bruja (the witch) gave another lesson in professionalism, as a man and as a leader. I'm happy with his response (to being left out) and that of the squad," Maradona told a news conference.
"If we were to lose Veron tomorrow the squad would no longer be the squad. We'll give Veron a rest and hope he comes back against Greece," he said at Loftus Versfeld stadium, close to Argentina's University of Pretoria training base.
Veron, who played in central midfield with Javier Mascherano in Saturday's 1-0 win over Nigeria, will be replaced by Maxi Rodriguez, who came on as his substitute for the last quarter of an hour of the Ellis Park match.
The change, however, should bring a better balance to Maradona's side after right wing-back Jonas Gutierrez struggled to fill two roles against the Nigerians, defending and also supplying quick ball down the right flank.
This will leave Mascherano alone in the middle but striker Carlos Tevez, a tireless runner, can help out dropping deep, Maradona said.
"You can't give Carlitos a fixed position because he surprises you backing up, throwing himself to the ground (to tackle)," he said.
Maradona's has a three-man attack with Lionel Messi, Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain rotating up front. They made a string of chances against Nigeria but Argentina scored with defender Gabriel Heinze's headed goal from a sixth-minute corner taken by Veron.
South Korea lead the group on goal difference from Argentina after beating Greece 2-0 on Saturday.