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Argentina not expecting easy ride

BUENOS AIRES June 15. Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa, whose team breezed through the qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup, is not expecting such an easy ride this time.

``I don't think the next qualifiers will be as easy for Argentina as the last ones,'' he said. Bielsa controversially kept his job despite his team's shock first round elimination in South Korea and Japan last year.

He told reporters at Buenos Aires airport that he was happy with his team's performances in the Far East after it beat Japan 4-1 and South Korea 1-0 earlier this month.

``It was a positive tour because we had ten days' work and contact with the players, about whom I had a preconceived idea which I was able to amplify,'' he said.

``The target between now and September is to consolidate the team for the qualifiers.''

Bielsa said Argentina showed flashes of good football but need to perform more consistently. ``We have to try and make the moments of good football last longer, it's an aspect we have to correct,'' he said.

Bielsa added that he had expected a better performance from Japan, who are coached by former Brazil forward Zico, and suggested the Koreans had been overcautious.

``The match against Japan was good, although we expected more from them. We knew about South Korea from the World Cup although, even when they were losing, they did not change their cautious approach.''

Argentina kick off their qualifying campaign for the 2006 World Cup, which will be hosted by Germany, in September when they face Chile at home.

Bielsa's team qualified for last year's World Cup finals with four games to spare and finished the South American group on 13 wins from 18 matches.

Reuters

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