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Argentina's Saviola hoping for World Cup place

© Reuters 2002

BARCELONA, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Barcelona striker Javier Saviola is hoping to win a place in Argentina's World Cup squad despite playing only a bit-part in the qualifying campaign.

"Obviously I'm really excited by the prospect. I think I'm in with a chance and I'm really keen to form part of the team," the 20-year-old former River Plate star was quoted as saying on Barcelona's official website on Thursday. "But I am realistic about my chances and I know that the players that are a regular part of the team are playing really well at the moment."

With Roma striker Gabriel Batistuta and the Lazio pairing of Hernan Crespo and Claudio Lopez all sure to be in Marcelo Bielsa's squad, Saviola will be competing against Bologna's Julio Cruz and veteran striker Claudio Caniggia for one of the remaining slots up front.

The young striker joined Barcelona for $28 million last July shortly after he had helped steer Argentina to the World Youth Cup title.

He was the player of the tournament, scoring a record 11 goals in the campaign and now believes the senior players can follow the youth side's example by winning the World Cup.

"There are a lot of very tough teams in the competition, like France or Spain for example, but with the players we have got and judging by the way we played in the qualifying tournament we must be one of the big favourites."

Argentina have been drawn to play England, Nigeria and Sweden in group F at the tournament in Korea and Japan. The pint-sized forward, who has notched eight league goals this term, also believes that despite a recent dip in form Barcelona can still challenge Real Madrid for the championship

"There are still plenty of games left and it seems like every weekend a team at the top loses a game or another one moves up into the reckoning, so we're still in with a good chance and we will continue to fight for the title."

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