Argentina set to experiment

Argentina coach Diego Maradona ponders a ball during a news conference at the Loftus Versfeld...

Argentina coach Diego Maradona ponders a ball during a news conference at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria. (REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:32 PM ET

JOHANNESBURG – Imagine gathering a group of mad scientists together, stuffing them in a room in Buenos Aires, and giving them one assignment.

A big one.

“Your mission, gentlemen, should you choose to accept it: Reproduce superstars of past and present like Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi with the quest of creating a super team.”

Sound far-fetched?

Not to Argentina president Cristina Kirchner.

During a visit to a clone lab in Marcos Paz earlier this week, the president chuckled over the concept of potentially cloning Argentina’s top stars, according to various publications in that country.

“A Messi ... Maradona, a (Juan Sebastian) Veron, everyone,’ Kirchner said jokingly.

Interestingly, the lab Kirchner was visiting contains scientists who are attempting to clone sheep, goats and pigs.

This much is certain: Maradona definitely will be a goat in his native country if his Argentinian squad flops in South Africa 2010.

Having barely squeaked through the qualifying rounds, Maradona, the one-time national-hero-turned-manager of the national team, will have the weight of an entire nation sitting on his stumpy shoulders when Argentina kicks off their World Cup Saturday against the always-pesky Nigerians at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg.

Should Argentina fall pathetically short in its bid to capture the title, the heavily-criticized Maradona might be tarred-and-feathered when he returns home.

On the other hand, should Argentina go all the way, so, too, will their chubby leader, who has vowed that he’ll run through his home town naked.

Let’s hope they don’t clone THAT version of Maradona.

In the end, Maradona’s hopes will rest with Messi, easily the best player on the planet over the past year.

“Messi is the best in the world, and if he has the ball we have more possibilities,” Maradona said. “Thank God he’s an Argentine. We are hungry for glory. I see it similar to (our championship 1986 team).

“Besides, Messi arrives better than I was.”

There is no doubt Messi faces huge pressure in this tournament. There are some, like Brazilian defender Danny Alves, who believe the diminutive goal-scoring machine will not live up to the challenge for that very reason.

“Messi is young,” Alves, who, like Messi, plays for Barcelona, told the British publication The Times. “He has to carry the nation on his back and it’s a big responsibility.”

Will Messi be able to take the heat?

If so, don’t be surprised if Kirchner pays another visit to that lab very soon.

ARGENTINA VERSUS NIGERIA

Saturday, 10:30 a.m. (EST)

Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg

ALL-TIME SERIES: Argentina has two wins, zero losses, zero ties.

FREE KICKS: The anticipation of these two teams playing wide-open firewagon soccer has been the buzz leading up to this contest. The Nigerians might have the vuvuzela-blowing African fans on their side, but Argentina has Lionel Messi. Enough said.

OF NOTE: Messi scored 11 goals in a five-game span for Barcelona earlier this season.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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