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In 1997, after a successful stint with Argentina’s under-20 team, Riquelme was called up to the Argentina national team by coach Daniel Passarella for their last qualifying match for the 1998 World Cup on 16 November 1997. The match was played at the stadium of Boca Juniors, La Bombonera, where a 19-year-old Riquelme debuted for Argentina when he entered the field in the last minutes of the 1–1 draw against Colombia. His first major tournament for Argentina was at the 1999 Copa América. In 2000, Riquelme participated at the 2000 CONMEBOL Men Pre-Olympic Tournament, which saw Argentina fail to qualify for the 2000 Summer Olympics. Riquelme scored his first international goal in a 3–1 away victory during a friendly against Libya in Tripoli on 30 April 2003. In 2006, Riquelme was named captain of the Argentina national football team by new coach Alfio Basile. After a 3–0 defeat against Brazil, Riquelme had received a lot of criticism and responsibility for the defeat. This affected the health of Riquelme’s mother, who had been hospitalized twice in two months after the 2006 World Cup, and this led to Riquelme publicly announcing his international retirement from the Argentina national team on 13 September 2006. At that point, Riquelme had made 37 international appearances and had scored eight goals. On 13 October 2007, Riquelme emerged from three months of inactivity at Villarreal to score two free-kicks in a 2–0 win against Chile to get Argentina off to a winning start in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. In March 2009, Riquelme decided to retire from the national team after a disagreement with coach Diego Maradona. Former manager Sergio Batista stated he would have liked for Riquelme to return to international play, hinting at the possibility of the player appearing in a friendly with Spain in August 2010, which eventually did not happen. In 2011, Riquelme was called up to the Argentina national team by coach Alejandro Sabella for the Superclásico de las Américas, however he eventually withdrew his position from the squad due to injuries from club matches which would leave him unable to complete two games in a matter of days.