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Maradona goes back to the drawing board without Riquelme

ARGENTINA had been forced to go back to the drawing board following Juan Roman Riquelme's decision to quit the side earlier this week, coach Diego Maradona said yesterday.

Maradona said that all his tactical plans had to be scrapped after the enigmatic playmaker, upset at comments the coach made about his playing style, said on Tuesday the two could not work together.

"We had to change everything after losing Riquelme," Maradona told the TyC Sports cable channel after announcing a 26-man squad for this month's World Cup qualifiers at home to Venezuela and away to Bolivia.

There were no surprises in Maradona's squad although Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain was again left out despite scoring 14 goals in Spain's Primera Liga this season. Lazio's Mauro Zarate was also ignored.

Former Manchester United, Chelsea and Lazio midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron, who has made only one appearance since the Copa America final against Brazil in July 2007, was included.

Veron had been named in the squad for last month's France match but withdrew through injury.

Argentina host Venezuela in Buenos Aires on March 28 in Maradona's first competitive match since his appointment last October. They visit Bolivia at high altitude in La Paz four days later.

Argentina has played two friendlies under Maradona, winning away to Scotland and France, and Riquelme missed both because of club commitments with Boca Juniors.

The squad included two uncapped players -- Mexico-based goalkeeper Federico Vilar, a surprise call-up at the age of 32, and Boca Juniors defender Juan Forlin.

Argentina are third in the 10-team South American World Cup qualifying group with 16 points from 10 games, seven behind leaders Paraguay and four ahead of sixth-placed Ecuador.

The top four teams qualify for South Africa and the fifth side plays off against the fourth team from the CONCACAF region over two legs for another place.

Goalkeepers: Juan Pablo Carrizo (Lazio), Mariano Andujar (Estudiantes), Federico Vilar (Atlante)

Defenders: Emiliano Papa (Velez Sarsfield), Juan Forlin (Boca Juniors), Marcos Angeleri (Estudiantes), Javier Zanetti (Inter Milan), Walter Samuel (Inter Milan), Martin Demichelis (Bayern Munich), Gabriel Heinze (Real Madrid), Daniel Diaz (Getafe)

Midfielders: Sebastian Battaglia (Boca Juniors), Juan Sebastian Veron (Estudiantes), Daniel Montenegro (Independiente), Jonas Gutierrez (Newcastle United), Maximiliano Rodriguez (Atletico Madrid), Angel Di Maria (Benfica), Luis Gonzalez (Porto), Javier Mascherano (Liverpool), Fernando Gago (Real Madrid)

Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid), Carlos Tevez (Manchester United), Diego Milito (Genoa), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli), Lisandro Lopez (Porto)


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