Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Diego Maradona still confident as Argentina fight World Cup humiliation

Diego Maradona's troubled spell in charge of Argentina may end on Wednesday if his side fail to beat Paraguay – a defeat which could mean Argentina dropping out of the World Cup qualification places.

Depending on other results, a loss against Paraguay could leave Argentina in sixth place in the 10-team South American qualifying group. Going into the final two matches next month, they would then be faced with missing out on not just one of the top four spots that advance automatically, but even fifth place, which gets a play-off spot. Failure would make them the first Argentina team to miss a World Cup since 1970.

But Maradona, who predicted victory before Saturday's 3-1 defeat to Brazil, says he remains confident of success: "We'll go to Paraguay with the same confidence as always".

While Argentina possess some of the world's best talent in the strikers Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Agüero, the sports newspaper Olé said disjointedness was the problem: "The national team doesn't play like a team, and Diego has not been able to turn this around."

Brazil lead the South American standings with 30 points, followed by Chile and Paraguay with 27 each, Argentina with 22, Colombia and Ecuador with 20, and Uruguay and Venezuela with 18. Bolivia and Peru have both been eliminated.

The Paraguay coach, Gerardo Martino, said he was not expecting an easy game. "Argentina – despite how they are playing in the qualifiers – everything about them worries me. This is a world power with a top group of players."

Paraguay drew 1-1 with Argentina in their first qualifying match in June 2008.

Brazil will be without four starters who are banned for Wednesday's match against Chile after picking up yellow cards against Argentina – Kaká, Luis Fabiano, Ramires and Lucio. The Brazil coach, Dunga, is also expected to rest Robinho, who has a thigh injury. Elano is also doubtful with an injury.

The Brazil winger Andre Silva said: "Dunga congratulated us for qualifying, but he kept all our feet on the ground because Chile is a tough game and we have to stay focused."

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