Although his picture has appeared in advertisements promoting the U.S.-Argentina men's soccer match at RFK Stadium next month, superstar Gabriel Batistuta was not included on the Argentine national team roster released yesterday in Buenos Aires.
Batistuta was among several standouts who won't play against the United States here June 13 and Mexico four days earlier at Chicago's Soldier Field.
Also not invited or declining invitations were forwards Claudio Lopez, Martin Palermo and Hernan Crespo; defenders Roberto Sensini and Jose Chamot; goalkeeper Carlos Roa; and midfielders Fernando Redondo and Juan Sebestian Veron, Argentina's top player at the 1998 World Cup in France.
Four World Cup starters who play professionally in Italy were named to the team -- defenders Roberto Ayala (AC Milan) and Javier Zanetti (Inter Milan), midfielder Diego Simeone (Inter Milan) and forward Ariel Ortega (Sampdoria) -- as were a pair of World Cup reserves: goalie German Burgos (River Plate, Argentina) and defender Nelson Vivas (Arsenal, England).
Overall, 11 Europe-based pros and seven Argentine league players were selected. However, Argentine media reports said the roster could be amended, with Veron, who plays for Parma in Italy, a possible addition.
Argentine officials had indicated they would bring most of their top players for the games in the United States. But many have balked because they have been playing almost continuously since last summer's World Cup and need a break. Others based in Spain have conflicts with their clubs' late-season schedule. Argentina is using these games to prepare for Copa America, the prestigious South American championships that take place June 29 to July 18 in Paraguay.
The most notable absence is Batistuta, a striker who leads the Italian League in scoring for Fiorentina. He has played in the past two World Cups, scoring four goals in 1994 and five last year -- which tied him with Italy's Christian Vieri for second behind Croatia's Davor Suker (six).
His photo has appeared in newspaper ads the past few weeks for the U.S. game, which is being promoted jointly by the U.S. Soccer Federation and D.C. United.