BUENOS AIRES - Argentina's trio of "shorties" have a bright future, coach Diego Maradona said after his three-pronged attack of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi led the 4-0 rout of Venezuela. All three players, average height 1.70 metres, scored in Saturday's World Cup qualifier which marked Maradona's home and competitive debut since his surprise appointment last year. "It was the perfect game, we kept the ball, we broke down the flanks and we had lots of scoring chances created by the shorties," he told reporters after the game. "I want to hear the response of those who want us to play with big strikers and pump high balls at them. "The boys knew when to wait for their moment and we scored the goals at exactly the right time. Venezuela have improved and it wasn't easy to score four goals. "These players like to perforate defences," added Maradona, a shorty himself at 1.65 metres. "This is my ideal team." Messi had one of his best games for Argentina scoring the first goal, setting up the second and nearly adding another with a brilliant run through the Venezuela defence late in the game. "If Messi plays like that every time it will be excellent. If that last chance had gone in, we would all have had to leave the stadium, pay for another ticket and come back in again," said Maradona. Maradona opted for a 3-4-3 formation, giving Messi the prestigious number 10 shirt, after enigmatic playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme announced his international retirement earlier this month. Furious that Maradona had made comments on his playing style in a television interview, Riquelme said the two could not work together and the coach had broken a code of ethics. Riquelme generally controlled the midfield when he played and Messi appeared to enjoy more freedom without him. The Monumental crowd, which gave Maradona a rousing reception, aimed a few jibes at the mercurial Boca Juniors playmaker with chants of "Riquelme's watching on the telly." Maradona said that the only sour note were some jeers for midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron when he replaced Tevez midway through the second half. Many blamed Veron, making only his second appearance since the 2007 Copa America, for Argentina's shock first-round exit at the 2002 World Cup in Asia and some have not forgiven him. "Veron took painkillers because I asked him to and the people who jeered him will regret it," said Maradona.
29 March 2009
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