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Messi, Argentina set to face stubborn Iran FIFA denies blocking Maradona from Maracana

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil, June 19, (AP): After stuttering in the early stages of in their opening match, Argentina’s attack will need to use all their talent to find a way to break through Iran’s stubborn defense in their second Group F game. Lionel Messi’s remarks earlier this week about the team’s tactics in the first match sparked speculation that Argentina’s captain wasn’t seeing eye-to-eye with coach Alejandro Sabella. Whatever formation Argentina uses against Iran on Saturday, the South Americans will need to be patient against a lineup that held Nigeria to a 0-0 draw in their first match. “All of the matches have their difficulties and it’s our job to overcome them,” backup goalkeeper Agustin Orion said.

Messi said Argentina made too many mistakes against Bosnia-Herzegovina despite winning 2-1, starting the match with two attackers instead of three and playing a 5-3-2 formation in the first half. Messi prefers a 4-3-3 and Argentine media reports said he and other players insisted at halftime that Sabella needed to change tactics. The coach made the change and speculation emerged there was a growing rift between Messi and Sabella.
But other players sought to downplay any serious disagreement between the pair.
“Messi gave his opinion, which he is entitled to, and you shouldn’t go looking for things that aren’t there,” said Mariano Andujar, another backup ‘keeper.
A win for Argentina against Iran will give the South Americans a firm grip on Group H, but Iran’s defense is a potential impediment.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz wasn’t happy with his team being labelled as defensive, saying the result against Nigeria was a fair reflection of the game. He also said his players deserved “sympathy and respect” for performing on the biggest stage despite the impact of economic sanctions on the country — which made it difficult to arrange friendlies.

Queiroz said his Iranian squad was primed to face Argentina at Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte.
“Our match with Argentina will be the most important and biggest match in Iran’s football history,” he said. “I still believe the majority assume there are only three teams in Group F, with the experts believing that Argentina is the top team in this group, while either Nigeria, or Bosnia ranking 2nd. Of course they are right about Argentina.”
Queiroz didn’t reveal whether his team would resort to the same tactics to contain players like Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain.
“We consider it as the greatest challenge before us,” he said. “We will try to display a challenging spirit.”
In Rio De Janeiro, Diego Maradona is not a special guest of FIFA at the World Cup, though Gisele Bundchen could still be.

FIFA played down the latest broadside aimed by Maradona, one of the governing body’s fiercest and most regular critics.
The Argentina great has claimed in the media that he was blocked from watching his country at the Maracana Stadium on Sunday.
While FIFA dismissed reports that Bundchen could present the actual World Cup at Maracana on July 13, the Brazilian supermodel seems a candidate to bring the trophy on to the field before kickoff.
“I have seen a lot of confusion in the media around that,” FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer said Wednesday, confirming longstanding plans that FIFA President Sepp Blatter will present the trophy. He could be joined by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
Maradona played in two World Cup finals — receiving the trophy as Argentina captain in 1986 — but his privileges at this tournament seem to extend only as far as working journalist’s accreditation.
Maradona is at the World Cup with Venezuelan broadcaster Telesur, which does not have rights to broadcast matches. Journalists require an additional ticket to sit in the media tribune at matches.
He told Argentinian media that FIFA barred his access to the 2-1 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“As long as he is going in with the right media access then there shouldn’t be any issue,” Fischer said, adding that FIFA had not received a complaint from Maradona “nor for anybody else.”
“Maybe he went somewhere where we didn’t have the necessary access but we have no record of it,” she said.

Maradona was inspiration of the Argentina team that won in ‘86, and then reached the 1990 final.
He was also the last player expelled from a World Cup for doping in 1994, when he tested positive for five different banned stimulants.
Previously expected to be involved in World Cup draw ceremonies, Bundchen could be part of the final’s pre-match ceremonies.
“What we are planning at the moment is who will bring the trophy on the field,” Fischer said, responding to speculation on how the model and wife of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could be involved. We haven’t finalized it.”
“It will definitely be a player and somebody else,” the FIFA spokeswoman said of the trophy arrival. “It will remain the entire match as we have seen in 2010 and 2006.”


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