Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Batista aiming to spoil Irish party

Sergio Batista
Sergio Batista

Argentina caretaker manager Sergio Batista is determined to see his side rain on Robbie Keane's parade tonight.

The Republic of Ireland captain and his country's all-time leading goalscorer with 43 will win his 100th cap in a prestigious friendly against the double World Cup winners. The game also marks the first international in the Republic's new home, the £350million, 50,000-seater Aviva Stadium that has taken three years to construct.

But with Argentina eager to put their World Cup heartache behind them after losing 4-0 to Germany in a quarter-final just 40 days ago, Batista, in temporary charge after the Argentinian Football Association opted not to renew Diego Maradona's contract, said: "Whether it's a friendly or competitive game, a match with Ireland is always a tough challenge."

He added: "We are going into it as if it was a competitive international. I'm sure it is going to be a really serious game.

"We respect the Irish team a lot. Despite that we will try to impose our own style of football on the game.

"I know it means a lot to Ireland, in particular after they missed out on qualification for the World Cup because of those things that can happen sometimes in football (Thierry Henry's handball).

"Also it's obviously a great occasion for Robbie Keane. We know he is a top player and 100 caps for anyone is a big thing in football.

"We just have to make sure that Robbie is not celebrating too much by the end of the game."

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