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Argentina leads with Messi and the Monsters
by Paul Kennedy, June 28th, 2007 7AM

TAGS:  argentina, copa america, men's national team


Alfio Basile knows something about winning at the Copa America.

He coached Argentina at the South American championship twice, and it won both times, in 1991 and 1993.

He is downplaying, however, any comparisons between those teams and his current team that opens play in Group C against the USA on Thursday in Maracaibo.

"That team had been around a bit and twice won the Copa America," he said. "This one is just starting out. But we're going to try to play the same way. It's going to be difficult to play at the same level as those monsters."

For a team "just starting out," Argentina is quite formidable. Its new monsters include such international stars as Lionel Messi and Hernan Crespo in attack, Juan Roman Riquelme and Javier Maschareno in midfield and Roberto Ayala and Javier Zanetti on defense.

Argentina is so loaded that Carlos Tevez, hero of Argentina's 2004 Olympic gold-medal camapign and a three-time South American Player of the Year, is expected to start on the bench.

For Basile, Messi will be the player to watch in Venezuela.

"We hope he plays the way he knows, with the same explosion and inventiveness," Basile said. "He can undo any team in the world. At any moment, he can become inspired and win the game."

ARGENTINA LINEUP: Abbondanzieri; Zanetti, Ayala, Gabriel Milito, Heinze; Veron, Mascherano, Cambiasso, Riquelme; Messi, Crespo.

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