Argentina rest regulars for Portugal friendly

BUENOS AIRES - Striker Carlos Tevez was among several leading Argentine internationals left out of the squad named on Monday for their friendly against Portugal in Geneva next month.

Also missing from coach Sergio Batista's squad to make room for less experienced players were defenders Gabriel Heinze and Martin Demichelis and striker Sergio Aguero. Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain is recovering from back surgery.

"Neither Tevez nor any of the lads who were left off this list are out of the national team," Batista told La Red radio.

Batista named winger Enzo Perez of Argentine champions Estudiantes and Velez Sarsfield's uncapped forward Juan Manuel Martinez from the local league plus defender Marcos Rojo, who has just joined Spartak Moscow from Estudiantes.

"I have to see players, lots, and I do that in matches. I have to see if they can wear the national team shirt but I haven't punished anyone," Batista said when asked if there were disciplianry reasons for the ommisions.

"This doesn't mean that the players left out now are out of the Copa America. This is a good moment to try out some youngsters."

Argentina, who meet Portugal in Geneva on February 9, are preparing to host the Copa America in July. Batista's record since taking over from Diego Maradona is wins over Ireland, Spain and Brazil and a defeat by Japan.

Batista also has his eye on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which could be a bridge too far for players in their 30s like Heinze and Demichelis.

Continuing to call up 37-year-old Javier Zanetti might appear to contradict Batista's plans, but he said: "If he carries on (playing) the way he is, at the same level, he'll surely be at the Copa America."

Argentina have another friendly away to the United States at New Meadowlands in New Jersey on March 26.