x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Defiant Batista pledges to carry on with Argentina

Argentina coach Sergio Batista says Copa America exit is not a 'failure' despite them hosting the tournament and having Fifa Player of the Year Lionel Messi in their side.

Lionel Messi and Argentina were poor throughout the Copa America.
Lionel Messi and Argentina were poor throughout the Copa America.

Sergio Batista, the Argentina head coach, said that his team had not failed at the Copa America, despite going out in the quarter-finals of a tournament they were favourites to win.

The nation's drought in major championships will now extend past 20 years after a dramatic penalty shoot-out loss to neighbours Uruguay

"This is not a failure," Batista said after Carlos Tevez's missed penalty sealed a shoot-out defeat following a 1-1 draw after extra time in Santa Fe.

"I would not call it failure - that is a very strong word. We work to win, and I think we really played very well.

"Things didn't go the way we wanted, and we will have to make some corrections in the future."

Argentina's loss hurt even more given the fact they have not won a major title since capturing the 1993 Copa America.

They were beaten by bitter rivals Brazil in the last two Copa America finals, while the quarter-final stage is the farthest they have got in the World Cup since winning it in 1986.

This loss will be seen as a huge missed opportunity, especially given the advantage of home support and the presence in the team of Lionel Messi, the World Player of the Year.

Argentina's media were already sharpening the knives as they picked over the debris of the defeat.

"National failure," read a headline on the website of the Ole sports daily after the match. "Goodbye to the dream of winning the Copa at home. Not even Messi was able to save us ... What happens now to the Batista project?"

"Argentina's dream died in the shoot-out," said Clarin on its website.

Batista said he had to recognise that the team had failed to spark.

"We did not play the way I had hoped, and Uruguay turned in an admirable showing. It did not turn out as I hoped," said the man who replaced Diego Maradona as coach after a World Cup quarter-final defeat last year.

Asked if he might think about stepping down, Batista - a Maradona teammate in the successful 1986 World Cup campaign - said: "That is not something going through my head," he said.

"Going out hurts, but you have to continue on.

"My work began five, six months ago. We have to continue with the project. It's important to focus on the [2014] World Cup. I'm not happy, nobody likes to be eliminated, but I'm satisfied with the players."

The Argentines won only one of their four matches, beating Costa Rica's Under 23 squad.

They drew 1-1 with Bolivia and 0-0 against Colombia in their other group matches.

Batista insisted that Messi deserved praise despite not finding the net in the tournament after scoring 53 goals for Barcelona last season.

"He played exceptionally for 30 minutes. He had a very good game," Batista said.

Pablo Zabaleta, the Manchester City full-back, however, said Argentina should have seen off their rivals from across the River Plate.

"It is a bad feeling as we know we should have won it.

"We had chances and, for much of the game, we had a man extra," he said, referring to Diego Perez's first-half sending off, which was evened up by the dismissal of the Argentina captain Javier Mascherano just before the end of 90 minutes.