Argentina will 'break our backs' to beat Australia, says Scaloni

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Argentina Press Conference - Main Media Center, Doha, Qatar - December 2, 2022 Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni during the press conference REUTERS/Gareth Bumstead

DOHA, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni complained about the limited recovery time ahead of his squad's World Cup last-16 clash against Australia but promised his team would play out of their skins to ensure there are no more surprises at the tournament.

Argentina beat Poland late on Wednesday to book their spot in the knockout stages and must play Australia on Saturday, a turnaround time that Scaloni had previously described as "absolute madness".

Scaloni and midfielder Rodrigo De Paul said they have yet to train, instead focusing on down time and recovery over the past two days.

"Australia, who finished second in the group, played at 6 p.m. and we finished first (in our group) but played at 10 p.m. We went to bed at 4 a.m. and that has an impact when you have a game in 48 hours," Scaloni told reporters on Friday.

"We will break our backs on this pitch to compete, we know how difficult this World Cup is, this is football.

"We saw what happened yesterday (when Germany and Belgium were knocked out in the group stage) but this is not surprising. When you say big national teams deserve to be in the next stage, that doesn't always happen."

There were concerns winger Angel Di Maria was injured when he was taken off in the 2-0 win over Poland. Scaloni said they would assess player fitness before taking a call on the starting lineup.

"Di Maria is feeling fine, we hope he will be fine and is able to play. At the moment we don't have a clear picture," Scaloni said.

"If you've seen our matches, you know I don't always play the same players. I focus on every single match and adapt the team for the match. Very rarely have I repeated the starting 11.

"What's important is everyone knows what they need to do. We will go match by match and won't always play the same team if it isn't necessary."

Australia are back in the knockout stages for the first time since 2006.

Scaloni said Argentina must shed the "favourites" tag going into the contest, while De Paul said they had analysed the team that beat Tunisia and Denmark in the group stage.

"It will be a similar game to that of Poland, we'll have the ball but they'll have wide players on the flanks - coverage will be important," De Paul said.

"I think it's a very fast team, focusing on wide players, and they have tall centre backs as well. I think we shouldn't make fouls near the area.

"They have very fast wingers and their main strength is their counter-attack, so we need to be very careful. We shouldn't be on the back foot... It will be difficult for our midfield and defence so our forwards are free to roam."

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Doha; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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