Argentina 'Serious' About Venezuela Tie


New Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella has described his team's clash with Venezuela in India on Friday as more than just a friendly because expectations are so high.

"It is an extremely important match both for me and the team. There are huge expectations from us back home and it is a big responsibility," Sabella told Tuesday's Times of India ahead of the match in Kolkata.

"Venezuela are a good side and we will be approaching the match with utmost seriousness."

The FIFA-sanctioned friendly will be the first match as Argentina coach for the 56-year-old Sabella, who replaced sacked Sergio Batista last month.

"My primary concern is about the fitness of the squad. I am hoping that all the players would be fit and ready for the match. We have a good team, and if everyone is fit, we are confident of getting a favorable result," he said.

The match at the Salt Lake Stadium will also provide a rare opportunity for Indian fans to see two-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi in action.

"Messi is not only an Argentine star, the whole world expects him to do well. As a coach, I would like all the players to do well and win against Venezuela," Sabella told reporters.

Messi and his Barcelona team-mate Javier Mascherano have yet to arrive in India but 17 members, including the Real Madrid duo of Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria, landed in the city on Tuesday.

The Argentina squad will then travel to Bangladesh for another friendly against Nigeria on September 6. They will also play two games against Brazil ahead of World Cup qualifiers which get underway in October.

Football is yet to take off in cricket-mad India despite enjoying considerable success in the 1950s and 1960s when they won two Asian Games gold medals.

The size of its population and the associated commercial potential has long seen it regarded as one of the great untapped markets for the sport.

German side Bayern Munich, four-time European champions, have visited India twice since 2008 to play exhibition matches in a bid to build on the interest in the game in the country of 1.2 billion people.

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