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Martino rues Copa America date with former side Paraguay

Argentina coach Gerardo Martino said he still maintains a close relationship with former employers Paraguay, ahead of their Copa America semi-final clash.

The two nations met in their opening group game in the continental competition – a 2-2 draw in La Serena on June 13 – and they will resume hostilities in Concepcion on Tuesday.

But as former Paraguay boss Martino said, the hostilities were only on the field as far as he was concerned, having led Argentina’s semi-final opponents to the 2011 decider.

“I would have preferred not to have played Paraguay,” said Martino, who coached Paraguay from 2006 to ’11.

“We have a lot of things in common, there are a lot of feelings. 

“I worked there for a long time, we started and finished a process… the World Cup, the Copa America. 

“There is a very close relationship. 

“I trained many of those players and they helped me grow as a coach. 

“They had a big influence in my career.”

Martino was criticised after their first match in the Chile showpiece for sending on Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez when his team were defending a 2-1 lead, but the former Barcelona boss stood by his tactical move.

“That match could have finished 6-2 or 5-2,” he said. 

“Nobody puts on two strikers at 2-1 up, but that was my interpretation at the time and nobody has been able to convince me that I was really wrong, even though you think about it afterwards.”

Since scoring twice in the first half against Paraguay, Argentina have added only two more goals in three-and-a-half matches, and Martino admitted his side need to start converting their chances.

“It’s clear that we have a problem with our finishing,” he said. 

“Not just in that famous second half against Paraguay, but in phases of the game against Uruguay and especially against Jamaica.

“There is a red mark against our finishing and that is something we will have to improve, but I agree with Javier [Mascherano] that it is more coincidence than anything else.”

Paraguay have grown in confidence since the draw against Argentina and played an attacking game in their quarter-final against Brazil on Saturday, which they won on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Concepcion.

“They [Paraguay] played much more in the opposition half,” Martino said. 

“Their defensive line was further forward and at one point, they had more possession than Brazil. Against us, they played with four forwards in the second half, but the team was split in two. Against Brazil it was a very different approach.”

Lionel Messi was booked against Colombia in the quarter-finals as Argentina triumphed on penalties and the 28-year-old will miss the final if he is shown another yellow card on Tuesday.

“It is a situation we are aware of,” Martino said. 

“And we are talking about the best player in the world here, but we hope that won’t happen to Leo, to Kun [Sergio Aguero] or to Javier. In any case, we have a squad of 23 footballers and I can’t complain with the players I have here.”

Tue 30 Jun, 2015
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