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Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Batistuta's 'sad' retirement
Batistuta said Argentina should have qualified without any problems
A distraught Batistuta is comforted by an official
Argentina striker Gabriel Batistuta has retired from international football following his team's elimination from the World Cup.

And the 33-year-old - who scored 56 goals in 78 internationals - said Argentina's failure to reach the second round of the World Cup was a painful end to his international career.

Open Quote
The time is over and the pain is twice as bad
Close Quote
Gabriel Batistuta
Argentina needed to beat Sweden to guarantee qualification from Group F - dubbed the 'Group of Death' - but could only manage a 1-1 draw despite dominating the match.

"The time is over and the pain is twice as bad," said a tearful Batistuta. "I dreamed of a different ending.

"I will never watch this match again, I do not need to see it again to know that we could have made it through without any problems in this group."

"We did everything we possibly could, there was nothing left inside of us.

"We feel for the people of Argentina, it was very close and being unable to repay the debt to them makes us feel bad."

Argentina's supporters seemed stunned at the final whistle
Argentina's supporters were upset after their team's elimination
Coach Marcelo Bielsa said his team did not justify their status as favourites following their failure to reach the last 16.

Argentina's campaign got off to a promising start, with a 1-0 win over Nigeria.

But Argentina lost their next game to England and managed just two goals across their three fixtures.

"I feel a great sadness and disappointment," said Bielsa.

"To be favourites is a presumption prior to playing. Afterwards you have to confirm that in practice and we didn't."

Bielsa said that he was pleased with his team's performance and felt his players did not get the result they deserved.

"Today our build-up was very superior to that against England. We had plenty of players on the end of each chance we created.

"There was no external conditions weighing on us today. We just did not get what we deserved."

The coach is soon out of contract - but gave no indication of whether he will remain in the job.

"My contract finishes at the end of the month," he said. "For now I have nothing to say. If I have to talk about it at the time I will do so."

Defender Javier Zanetti said his team were extremely unlucky not to qualify.

"We did everything to win, we didn't spare anything, we practically played in our opponents' half and we're left with nothing."


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SWEDEN V ARGENTINA
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 SQUAD PROFILES
GROUP F
  P GD PTS
SWEDEN 3 +1 5
ENGLAND 3 +1 5
ARGENTINA 3 0 4
NIGERIA 3 -2 1




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