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Sabella Acknowledges Argentina Expectation

PTI 30 Aug 2011, 14:33:43 IST

New Delhi, Aug 30 : Argentina's new national coach Alejandro Sabella says he is feeling the weight of expectation to improve the team's performances, starting with this week's friendly against Venezuela in Kolkata.

“It is an extremely important match both for me and the team,” Sabella said in an interview published in The Times of India on Tuesday. “There are huge expectations from us back home and it is a big responsibility.”

Sabella took over from Sergio Batista after Argentina failed to make the most of hosting last month's Copa America, crashing out in the quarterfinals against eventual champion Uruguay.

The game at the 100,000-capacity Salt Lake Stadium on Friday will mark Barcelona star Lionel Messi's first game as Argentina's captain.

“Messi is a world-class player and I am confident that he will do well for the national side,” Sabela said about the striker, who is expected to join his team late on Tuesday.
“We have a good team and if everyone is fit, we are confident of getting a favorable result,” he added.

The game is being awaited with eagerness in the eastern city of Kolkata, which has hosted some high-profile games in the past.

Brazilian great Pele turned out for the U.S. club Cosmos in a friendly against local club Mohan Bagan in 1977 while German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn played for Bayern Munich against Bagan in 2008.

The game comes at a time when football administrators are hoping to give an impetus to the world's most popular game in this cricket-crazy country of 1.2 billion.

Last year, the All India Football Federation signed a 15-year, $140-million commercial deal with IMG-Reliance, which will market football at all levels.

India is seen as a growing market since the advent of satellite television and famous English teams like Liverpool and Manchester United are trying to create a base there by running coaching programs and launching brand products.

Blackburn Rovers is also expected to play a rescheduled game in the western city of Pune later this year after its Indian owner, Venky's, was forced to cancel a game last month over security fears following bomb blasts in Mumbai.

A Goa-based industrial group that runs the Dempo Club has also invested $17 million to buy a 34 per cent stake in Danish club Midtjylland. AP