De­spite ru­mors, Ar­gentina still com­ing to Is­rael for soc­cer friendly

Jerusalem Post - - SPORTS - r #Z "--0/ 4*/"*

Is­rael will host Ar­gentina in its fi­nal World Cup warm-up match on June 9 as planned, Ar­gentina Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion chair­man Clau­dio Tapia con­firmed on Wed­nes­day dur­ing an event held in honor of Is­rael’s 70th In­de­pen­dence Day.

Re­ports in the Ar­gen­tinean me­dia ear­lier this week had raised the pos­si­bil­ity that the friendly may be moved to Spain due to the blood­shed on the Gaza border on Mon­day and the boy­cott campaign that was al­ready be­ing waged against the up­com­ing game in Is­rael.

The campaign is be­ing spon­sored by BDS Ar­gentina, which is us­ing the motto “Ar­gentina don’t go” to Is­rael, or #Ar­genti­naNoVayas. BDS stands for the Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions move­ment against Is­rael.

Ar­gentina na­tional team coach Jorge Sam­paoli had also voiced his con­cerns re­gard­ing the game in Is­rael, be­liev­ing the long jour­ney such a short time be­fore the start of the World Cup in Rus­sia will hurt his team’s prepa­ra­tions.

How­ever, Tapia said on Wed­nes­day that the match will go ahead as sched­uled, with the likely venue to be Haifa Sta­dium.

Ar­gen­tinean Na­tional Sec­re­tary of Sports and the Ar­gen­tine Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, or AFA, had re­ceived a let­ter last month signed by the Ar­gen­tinean Com­mit­tee of Sol­i­dar­ity with Pales­tine ask­ing for the can­cel­la­tion of the match that will take place one week be­fore Ar­gentina opens its World Cup campaign against Ice­land.

The let­ter said that the can­cel­la­tion of that friendly match “should rep­re­sent the sol­i­dar­ity of val­ues of the Ar­gen­tine peo­ple to­wards other peo­ples who are vic­tims of op­pres­sion, apartheid and geno­cide.”

Lionel Messi’s Ar­gentina, beaten by Ger­many in the last World Cup fi­nal and still await­ing its first ti­tle since 1986, will face Croa­tia and Nige­ria, as well as Ice­land, in the group stage.

Ar­gentina vis­ited Is­rael prior to the 1986 World cup, claim­ing a 7-2 win in a friendly against the blue­and-white. The Ar­gen­tineans sub­se­quently also came to the Holy Land ahead of the World Cups in 1990, 1994 and 1998, which was the team’s last visit to Is­rael.

Sam­paoli named his 35-man long list for the World Cup ear­lier this week, in­clud­ing re­cov­er­ing Ever­ton de­fender Ramiro Funes Mori and Rac­ing Club’s ex­cit­ing young duo Lau­taro Martinez and Ri­cardo Cen­tu­rion.

There were also places for un­capped Sport­ing Lis­bon mid­fielder Ro­drigo Battaglia and River Plate goal­keeper Franco Ar­mani.

The list, which must be trimmed to 23 by June 4, in­cluded Lionel Messi, Gon­zalo Higuain and Paulo Dy­bala, as well as Manch­ester United pair Ser­gio Romero and Mar­cos Rojo.

Ar­gentina hasn’t not won a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional ti­tle since lift­ing the Copa Amer­ica in 1993 and has per­formed in­con­sis­tently since los­ing to Ger­many in the World Cup fi­nal four years ago.

Although it reached the fi­nals of the Copa Amer­ica in 2015 and 2016, is lost both times and cur­rent coach Sam­paoli is the team’s third in four years.

(Reuters)

TICK­ETS FOR the friendly match be­tween Is­rael and Lionel Messi’s Ar­gentina are set to go on sale next week af­ter it was con­firmed that the World Cup warm-up will go ahead on June 9 as sched­uled.

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