BUENOS AIRES - Interim Argentina coach
Sergio Batista felt the warmth of a healthy pat on the back
from striker Lionel Messi after leading the side to a 1-0
friendly win over Ireland in his first game in charge on
Batista has expressed his desire to retain the job on a
full-time basis through to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, not
just for the rest of the year, and his cause will be helped by
Messi's glowing assessment of the former central midfielder.
"We've got to let him get on with the job. I had him at the
Olympic Games (in 2008) and I get on very well with him. Today
he's the one and we regard him as the national team coach, not
a stand-in," Messi told reporters.
The narrow win in Dublin was exactly the kind of result
Batista was hoping for ahead of a more demanding home match
against world champions Spain in Buenos Aires early next month.
Messi was happy in an Argentina shirt in Beijing two years
ago when he inspired his country to a second successive soccer
gold medal and the Barcelona forward admitted he felt similarly
as comfortable on Wednesday.
"I liked how we played, it's the same system we use in my
club, the same game. I felt comfortable because that's how I
play with Barcelona," Messi told TyC Sport, who broadcast the
match to Argentina.
Messi found himself increasingly isolated in former coach
Diego Maradona's side at this year's World Cup as Argentina
progressively came up against tougher opponents and cut a
forlorn figure when they lost 4-0 to Germany in the
"Checho" Batista, a bearded commanding defensive midfielder
in the 1986 World Cup-winning side, fielded a balanced midfield
with plenty of back-up for captain Javier Mascherano from
Fernando Gago, overlooked for South Africa, and Ever Banega.
All three were in Batista's Olympic team, along with
Wednesday's scorer Angel Di Maria and the recalled full-back
"We played very well, I liked the first half a lot,"
Batista told reporters. "After a (prior) 30-minute practice,
I'm happy because the lads had possession and respect for the
ball. They got the message right away."
The confident Batista believes in his chances of getting
the job, saying in a recent interview with the sports daily
Ole: "I hope everything is taken into account, what I did at
the Olympic Games and the work with the national juniors."
Batista also gets on with Carlos Bilardo, the 1986 and 1990
World Cup coach now the Argentine Football Association's
technical director, who was often at loggerheads with Maradona.
How the friendlies go against Spain next month and then
Brazil could ultimately decide his fate but Batista said: "I
don't feel like an interim (coach), I'm going to work as if I
were the man, with a contract until 2014.
"Of course, I'm hopeful, of staying. The decision is the
directors'. I want to get this on track and work like a
national team trainer."
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