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Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK

Press cries for Argentina

Argentina's leading dailies reflect the country's agony in going out of the World Cup finals in the first round, but their tone is one of pain rather than condemnation.

"It was a truly emotional finale," says the leading daily Clarin. "All that was needed was one goal and the battle for it was intense.

" The nails were driven through the heart of Argentine football "
La Nacion

"We gave our all on the pitch, but ended up being eliminated."

For La Nacion, "the dream has ended". It recalls that the last time Argentina went out in the first round was in 1962 in Chile.

"At 0520 in the morning in Buenos Aires, the nails were driven through the heart of Argentine football," cries La Nacion.

"The sky blue and white illusion lasted until now. But came the 13th day of the World Cup and our fate was sealed. It didn't go in, it didn't go in and it didn't go in."

" No shortage of effort. What was missing was football "
La Nacion

Argentina had sailed through its qualifying rounds, but had "fallen short of the high standard expected".

In none of the three games were Bielsa's men able "to turn on the style." Both the English and the Swedes had "short circuited" Argentina.

"Goodbye, World Cup," laments La Nacion. "At the end of the day, there was no shortage of effort. What was missing was what had come to distinguish our team: football."

Quoted by the daily, coach Marcelo Bielsa says he is "very sad and tremendously disillusioned".

"The players responded to everything asked of them... but it was not to be. When the ball doesn't go in, it doesn't go in."

"The truth is, we arrived as favourites, and now we are leaving."

" We deserved to win against England. But games aren't won on merit, they are won with goals "
Gabriel Batistuta

Bielsa says his contract expires at the end of the month, but he is unwilling to comment further.

La Nacion says the team took more than an hour to leave the dressing room after the match and the players "were unable to hide their grief".

Forward Gabriel Batistuta says he feels "great anger and pain" at having to retire from international football in such circumstances.

"We deserved to win against England. But games aren't won on merit, they are won with goals," he says.

According to midfielder and Manchester United star Juan Sebastian Veron, "we suffered a terrible blow, the most bitter in my life."

Winger Juan Pablo Sorin says: "The dream we and the Argentine people had of winning the championship has evaporated."

La Nacion says he was unable to finish the interview and left in tears.

Praise

Clarin praises the way the team played against Sweden. "There was anger, certainly, because we played the best game of the finals. Argentina showed itself rejuvenated, totally rejuvenated."

" Aimar carried the team on his shoulders "
Clarin

Clarin gives special praise to Pablo Aimar, "a breath of fresh air".

"Aimar was the strategic mastermind... there is no doubt he was star of the team and the match... he carried the team on his shoulders."

But neither Batistuta, nor Hernan Crespo who replaced him, were able to do the Valencia player justice.

"Now it's over. It's time for pain and frustration. For Aimar and for the whole of Argentina."

Before the match, another daily, La Prensa, published imaginary comments on coach Bielsa and the players over breakfast, one set for victory and progress, another for elimination.

On Bielsa, the comments are: "Bielsa is a phenomenon, pal! I said it the day he took over the squad." Alternatively: "Bielsa is a disaster, darling! I said it the day he took over the squad."

No prizes for guessing today's breakfast comments.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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