Real striker to cover for Messi

Argentina coach Sergio Batista is looking to Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain as an understudy to the brilliant Lionel Messi.With Barcelona’s Messi being Batista’s first choice striker for next month’s Copa America in Argentina, Batista said he wanted Higuain to play more like Messi instead of as an out-and-out striker.

Batista, a World Cup winner as a player with Argentina in 1986, wants his side to play possession football even if Messi misses out through injury.

“The idea is to see who can take Messi’s place,” Batista said.

“We have a number nine like Higuain, we’re training him to be not just an area nine.”

“He won’t be the same because they are (players with) different characteristics but (I want) all to know we play this way if Messi’s missing.”

“Our idea is to maintain a game plan with four (defenders), the three in the middle and the three forwards and not change. Maybe a linkman, but that’s the idea without disregarding our rivals.”

Messi, who turns 24 on June 24, had a disappointing 2010 World Cup campaign but Batista is confident he will respond at the Copa America.

“I’m confident he’ll have a very good Copa America because of his desire and the commitment he has with the national team,” Batista said.

Nine-time Copa America champions Argentina have lost the past two finals of the tournament to Brazil, and Batista said hosting the event put a new expectation on the players.

“We have the obligation of winning the tournament,” he said.

Argentina kick off their campaign on July 1 against Bolivia, and they are joined in Group A by Colombia and Costa Rica.