Maradona puts three at back for Argentina

PRETORIA, June 9, 2010 (AFP) - Argentina coach Diego Maradona is set to take a risk by playing a three-man backline with Jonas Gutierrez at the heart in Saturday's World Cup opener against Nigeria in Johannesburg.

Maradona was keeping his exact plans for the match at Ellis Park under lock and key on Wednesday at the team's Pretoria headquarters, but the signs were that certain elements were already in place.

Diego Maradona (R) embraces Argentina's goalkeeper Sergio Romero during a team training session at the University's High Performance Centre in Pretoria on June 9, 2010. AFP photo

"Jonas has been around the block and he is used to going out wide and we know we are three out-and-out defenders so that means the coach will be looking for a lot of marking," said Marseille centre-half Gabriel Heinze.

Heinze's comment was as near as either he or teammate Mario Bolatti of Fiorentina got to giving details of the Argentina game plan as they seek to dominate Group B with matches against South Korea and Greece to come.

But the rumours flying around the camp are Maradona will play a 3-4-3 formation.

Heinze will be backed up by Walter Samuel of Inter Milan and Martin Demichelis of Basyern Munich may be shunted out further right than usual with Newcastle's Gutierrez overseeing part of his normal zonal duties.

But Heinze also said that "Argentina will always go after the game" and not sit tight and be ultra-cautious.

The attack will likely comprise Carlos Tevez as a third forward complementing Gonzalo Higuan and Lionel Messi, of whom so much is expected at this tournament.

Samuel says the team is ready to hit the ground running, despite poor qualifying form.

"I have confidence in this team's chances at this World Cup," insisted the defender.

The Nigerians have not shown the greatest of form coming in - they beat fellow World Cup qualifiers North Korea 3-1 at the weekend in an encounter overshadowed by a crowd stampede but previous encounters saw a goalless draw with Saudi Arabia and a 1-1 stalemate with Colombia.

Nevertheless Heinze says the Argentines should beware as "they are a strong and direct outfit" under experienced Swedish coach Lars Lagerback.

"They are very athletic and physically strong - and they have some quick players."

Other news