'Leg squasher' Diego takes big risks in naming his final 23

Flights? Check. Hotel? Check. Match tickets? Check. Bring it on.

Ariel had his World Cup all organised, booked and paid for. Along with a couple of friends, 30 year old Ariel was going to travel to South Africa for the experience of a lifetime. He’d follow the fortunes of his country.

After games he could tell stories about the time Marcelo Bielsa tried him out in defence for the Albiceleste back in 2003. He could tell strangers at the bar about the time Maradona called him up to play a friendly against Haiti.

He could forget how he had spent all season trying to convince his club coach not to play him at right-back because he didn’t really like it. He could forget about his club’s largely disappointing campaign in the league, enjoy the World Cup, head home for the forthcoming season, and look forward to adding to his 230 games in top flight in Argentina.

But that has all changed. Ariel will have to cancel the flights and hotel, and pass on his tickets to a lucky amigo, because Ariel is Ariel Garcé, the shock call up for the Argentina World Cup squad.

Having squashed one poorly positioned cameraman’s leg on his way in to the predictably chaotic press conference, Diego Maradona announced the players he was taking to South Africa.

Relief spread when there was no sign of the surname Coloccini. Surprise news came when there was no Ezequiel Lavezzi. Other casualities – Sosa, Mercier, Blanco, Insaurralde and Jesús Dátolo – will probably not have been shocked by their omission.

By the time Maradona named his final list, the impious axe-wielding had been done. Zanetti, Cambiasso, Aimar, Lucho González, Lisandro López, Gago, Banega, Gabi Milito… all these players had been totally left out in the cold. They didn’t even make the 30-man provisional squad.

Ariel Garcé did make the 30, and even more surprisingly (‘at least let me enjoy it for a week’ he said, believing his chances of making the final squad to be somewhere between minimal and non-existent), he made the final cut.

So it is that Argentina’s final preparations for South Africa begin. Having tried out a total of 108 players, Maradona has his 23.

He takes three keepers – with less than ten caps between them; seven defenders, with one out-and-out fullback between them; seven midfielders, with 20 year old once-capped Javier Pastore as the only replacement 36 year old Juan Sebastián Verón in the creative role; and he takes six strikers for two places up front, who between them have hit 133 league goals this season.

What can we expect from Argentina? Perhaps one pointer is Maradona’s record as coach. Played 19, drawn 0. When Diego told journalists in Uruguay to keep sucking it he said ‘that’s me, I’m black or white, never grey.’ They’ll have to perform spectacularly badly not to make it through their group of Nigeria, South Korea and Greece, but what happens next is anyone’s guess. They could crash out in the second round, or go all the way.

As always with Maradona, it’s guaranteed to be fun - unless you are a poorly positioned cameraman.

Argentina's final 23-man squad

Sergio Romera (AZ Zlkmaar)
Mariano Andújar (Catania)
Diego Pozo (Colón)

Nicolás Otamendi (Vélez)
Walter Samuel (Inter)
Martín Demichelis (Bayern)
Gabriel Heinze (Marseille)
Nicolás Burdisso (Roma)
Ariel Garcé (Colón)
Clemente Rodriguez (Estudiantes)

Jonás Gutiérrez (Newcastle)
Javier Mascherano (Liverpool)
Juan S. Verón (Estudiantes)
Ángel Di María (Benfica)
Javier Pastore (Palermo)
Maxi Rodriguez (Liverpool)
Mario Bolatti (Fiorentina)

Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Gonzalo Higuaín (Real Madrid)
Diego Milito (Inter)
Sergio Agüero (Atlético Madrid)
Carlos Tévez (Manchester City)
Martín Palermo (Boca Juniors)