Soccer-Argentina defenders get last chance for World Cup places

Reuters

BUENOS AIRES, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella has picked defenders Lisandro Lopez, Gino Peruzzi and Nicolas Otamendi for a World Cup warm-up against Romania next month in a final test of his often criticised back four.

The team captained by Lionel Messi has one of the best strike forces in the world, boasting as well Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, who were both named for the March 5 match in Bucharest after recovering from injuries.

But there are question marks over the defence, which has been described as unreliable by Argentine media.

Otamendi, who plays in Brazil for South American club champions Atletico Mineiro, has 2010 World Cup experience under his belt, whereas Catania full back Peruzzi and Getafe central defender Lopez have two caps apiece in friendlies.

The first-choice back four in the last two years has usually been Pablo Zabaleta, Federico Fernandez, Ezequiel Garay and Marcos Rojo, but Sabella is looking for options to give better balance to a side with attacking riches.

By the time Argentina face Slovenia and Trinidad and Tobago in further warm-ups in early June, Sabella will have announced his 23-man World Cup squad. Argentina open their World Cup campaign against Bosnia on June 15 and also face Iran and Nigeria in Group F.

Sabella is expected to add four home-based players to the squad nearer the friendly: Boca Juniors' goalkeeper Agustin Orion and midfielder Fernando Gago and Newell's Old Boys' Maxi Rodriguez and Ever Banega.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Monaco), Mariano Andujar (Catania)

Defenders: Ezequiel Garay (Benfica), Hugo Campagnaro (Inter Milan), Federico Fernandez (Napoli), Jose Basanta (Monterrey), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Lisandro Lopez (Getafe), Gino Peruzzi (Catania), Nicolas Otamendi (Atletico Mineiro)

Midfielders: Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan), Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Jose Sosa (Atletico Madrid), Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid), Augusto Fernandez (Celta Vigo), Lucas Biglia (Lazio)

Forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris St Germain), Rodrigo Palacio (Inter Milan), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

(Reporting by Luis Ampuero; Writing by Rex Gowar; Editing by Stephen Wood)

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