Group C
Argentina v Ivory Coast
Kick-off 20:00 (BST)

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Argentina, one of the favourites to win the World Cup, meet Ivory Coast in what looks like being one of the more intriguing opening group matches.

Group C looks one of the toughest sections with Serbia & Montenegro and Holland who meet on Sunday lying in wait for both countries.

After being eliminated at the group stage four years ago, Argentina coach Jose Peckerman included only four players from the 2002 squad, defenders Roberto Ayala, Juan Pablo Sorin, midfielder Pablo Aimar and forward Hernan Crespo.

Peckerman’s omissions included experienced trio Javier Zanetti, Walter Samuel and Juan Sebastian Veron, who had appeared in a combined 209 matches for Argentina and are teammates at Inter.

Pekerman has already named their starting line-up and Pekerman has omitted Barcelona prodigy Lionel Messi, a player tipped to be one of the stars of the tournament.

Messi is still recovering from injury from a thigh injury picked up in Barcelona‘s Champions League win over Chelsea back in March, and his place will be taken by Javier Saviola who will partner Hernan Crespo in attack.

The playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme will be supported in midfield by Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Mascherano and also by the more attack-minded Maxi Rodriguez.

At the back, Gabriel Heinze, will be making his first competitive appearance since being injured playing for Manchester United last September, alongside Nicolas Burdisso, Roberto Ayala and Juan Pablo Sorin.

Ivory Coast, who are only the team at Germany 2006 with none of their squad playing their in the country’s domestic league, are regarded by many as potential surprise packages at this tournament.

Premiership trio Emmanuel Eboue, Kolo Toure and Didier Drogba provide a solid backbone to the side, but in the likes of Yaya Toure and Didier Zokora, they can show that they are not dependent on the English-based players.

Ivory Coast trainer Henri Michel will be making his fourth appearance as a head coach at the World Cup. He was also in charge in 1986 (France), 1994 (Cameroon) and 1998 (Morocco).

The two sides have never met before but this match will provide a good indicator as to who will emerge from the group and also whether Argentina can justify their status as one of the favourites to lift the trophy in July.

Probable teams:
Argentina: Abbondanzieri, Burdisso, Ayala, Heinze, Sorin, Rodriguez, Mascherano, Cambiasso, Riquelme, Saviola, Crespo.

Ivory Coast: Tizie, Eboue, Kolo Toure, Kouassi, Boka, Fae, Yaya Toure, Zokora, Akale, Kone, Drogba.

Referee: Frank de Bleeckere (Belgium)

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