Argentine media hails Messi, Sabella for World Cup berth

Buenos Aires, Sep 12 (IANS): Argentinians see World Cup football qualification as an obligation rather than an aspiration, but that did not stop the country's sports scribes from waxing lyrical after the national team, commonly known as the Albiceleste, secured their ticket to 2014 Brazil.

Alejandro Sabella's side will play in their 11th successive World Cup finals next June and July after a 5-2 rout of Paraguay in Asuncion, Tuesday night, reports Xinhua.

"Argentina has its spot in the World Cup and Sabella's team has every right to be delighted," Buenos Aires-based sports daily Ole gloated.

Four-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi netted twice from the penalty spot while Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Maxi Rodriguez also struck for the visitors.

Clarin said the team had delivered a "fiesta of goals" at the Defensores del Chaco stadium.

"Joy is not only something associated with Brazilian football," the newspaper said. "Argentina's players are immersed in this feeling as they make their way back to their respective clubs."

La Nacion singled out coach Sabella for praise due to his ability to "expertly bring together a team of stars".

"They were led by Lionel Messi but they also relied on a football maturity that has been forged by the winning mentality of Sabella," the paper said.

"The maturity of the squad is reflected in Messi who has produced the numbers he usually provides for Barcelona."

The newspaper added that Argentina had learnt from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when former coach Diego Maradona was criticised for denying Messi the freedom to play his normal game.

"Alejandro has focused on building the team around Messi and he has shined, with the sort of form he shows at club level," the newspaper said.

"Alongside Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, it's a trio that is able to deal the knockout blow for the team."

Messi and Uruguay's Luis Suarez lead the scoring chart for the South American zone qualifiers with 10 goals each followed by Gonzalo Higuain with nine. Aguero is seventh on the list with five.

Uruguay are now fifth on the table, equal on points with fourth-placed Ecuador. The top four teams automatically qualify for the World Cup while fifth will play off against the fifth best team from Asia.

In other matches, Peru saw their qualification hopes dashed with a 3-2 loss to Venezuela while Bolivia, already out of contention, drew 1-1 at home to Ecuador.

The final two rounds of South American zone qualifying will take place Oct 11 and Oct 15.


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