Argentina Leave out Zanetti, Gamble on Heinze
Former captain Javier Zanetti was left out of Argentina's World Cup squad on Monday while Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze, who has been out all season with a knee injury, was included.
Coach Jose Pekerman also selected Valencia playmaker Pablo Aimar, who recently suffered an ankle sprain followed by a bout of viral meningitis, and forward Javier Saviola, who has refound his best form with Sevilla this season after two years of uncertainty.
Nineteen-year-old Oscar Ustari was included as the third-choice goalkeeper but there was no place for his club-mate, 17-year-old forward Sergio Aguero, regarded as one of Argentina's most exciting prospects.
Argentina, who fell at the first hurdle four years ago, face Ivory Coast, Netherlands and Serbia & Montenegro in their first round group.
Zanetti, 32, played for Argentina at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups and was present in most of the 18-match qualifying campaign for 2006.
He said earlier on Monday that Pekerman had called him to tell him he would not be going to Germany.
"Nobody told me I had done anything wrong but I'd known for the last week I wasn't going to be in the squad," he said.
The Inter Milan player, who can play on the right side of either the defence or midfielder, has lost his place to West Ham United's Lionel Scaloni.
Pekerman took a gamble on the fitness of Heinze, who has not played a competitive game since suffering cruciate ligament damage in the Champions League match away to Villarreal on Sept 14.
Meanwhile, central defender Roberto Ayala, who missed out on the 2002 World Cup through a last-minute injury, only returned to action for Valencia in March after knee surgery.
"We repect the players ... and of course these decisions are painful, there's never going to be a logical explanation," said Pekerman. "This is the squad in which I have confidence."
"This is a top level squad with desire and hunger to bring back a little bit of happiness," he added. "I hope everyone gets behind this group which gives me hope and great confidence."
Pekerman was previously Argentina's under-20 coach and more than half of the players chosen have played in one of the teams which he coached to victory in the World Youth championships of 1995, 1997 and 2001.
"There's been a constant renovation of players and I'm enthusiastic about this," he said. The other surprises were the inclusion of Boca Juniors forward Rodrigo Palacio, one of only three home-based players in the squad, and Inter Milan striker Julio Cruz. Squad:
Goalkeepers: Roberto Abbondanzieri (Boca Juniors), Leonardo Franco (Atletico Madrid, Spain), Oscar Ustari (Independiente)
Defenders: Roberto Ayala (Valencia, Spain), Gabriel Heinze (Manchester United, England), Juan Pablo Sorin (Villareal, Spain), Fabricio Coloccini (Deportivo Coruna, Spain), Gabriel Milito (Zaragona, Spain), Nicolas Burdisso (Inter Milan, Italy) Leandro Cufre (AS Roma, Italy), Lionel Scaloni (West Ham United, England)
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Corinthians, Brazil), Esteban Cambiasso (Inter Milan, Italy), Luis Gonzalez (Porto, Portugal), Juan Roman Riquelme (Villareal, Spain), Maxi Rodriguez (Atletico Madrid, Spain), Pablo Aimar (Valencia, Spain)
Forwards: Hernan Crespo (Chelsea, England), Carlos Tevez (Corinthians, Brazil), Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Spain), Javier Saviola (Sevilla, Spain), Julio Cruz (Inter Milan, Italy), Rodrigo Palacio (Boca Juniors, Argentina)