Hand of God should cover Maradona's mouth
By GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency
There's no telling what's motivating Argentina coach Diego Maradona to speak out against the German squad in the leadup to the World Cup quarter-finals. (AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA)
CAPE TOWN -- They have been one of best, if not the best teams, in South Africa.
So why shoot yourself in the foot now? Why is Diego Maradona pulling the trigger?
He's pompous. He's arrogant. He's confident. Those traits are acceptable as a player possessing the quality he did during his playing days.
Coaches, on the other hand, have the job to keep things cool, calm, collected. Let the players do the talking with their play. Not a war of words.
Yet this is Maradona we're talking about. He loves himself far too much to know better. That's why we shouldn't be shocked he opened his mouth, stirring the pot before Argentina's quarterfinal with Germany.
Heckling German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, putting on a German accent while asking him if he's "Nervoushhhh" to play Argentina, is an immature move that once again casts serious doubt on his coaching ability.
It's too bad the Hand of God couldn't cover his mouth.
For all his contributions to the game as a wonderful player, Maradona is now a wonderful sideshow. He's a clown. He's a caricature of himself. He has been for years.
Drug use, scandal and craziness have defined the soccer legend for years. It's sad to see such a great player cast himself in such a light. But this World Cup isn't about him; it's about his team.
Tactically speaking, Maradona has got everything right in South Africa. From his all-out attack system, to player selection, to in-game substitutions and re-organization, he's been bang on. Arguably, no coach has been better.
In fact, his ingenuity has silenced many of the critics.
Argentines from Buenos Aires to Cordoba who've made the trip to South Africa assure me 80% of the population don't think Maradona was, or is, the right man to coach this team.
That being said, during World Cup time, fans tell me all criticism is cast aside. There is no questioning the coach or the team during the tournament. Critical analysis and good old finger-pointing comes later. But after this latest outburst, those same confident fans may be more inclined to classify themselves as cautiously optimistic instead about Argentina's chances. Thank you very much, Maradona.
Through four games, Argentina has barely been challenged. But in fairness, the quality of opponent has been secondary at best. A disappointing Nigeria was unlucky not to pluck a point, with Argentina lacking the initiative to bury the African nation. That wasn't the case against South Korea, with Gonzalo Higuain taking advantage of a poor defensive line. Greece was a walk in the park for the team.
In the Round of 16, Argentina did very well against Mexico. But an offside goal and a whole lot of flareups changed the tide of the game. Don't expect the same negative reaction from the Mexicans coming from the Germans.
Argentine forward Carlos Tevez may insist Argentina was more worried about Mexico than Germany, but he is completely wrong in his analysis. This Germany team is good, very good.
I am the first to admit, I underestimated Germany heading into the tournament; a team dealing with a rash of injuries and short on experience. Even the veterans in the roster -- namely Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose -- were on terrible form during their club seasons, combining for only nine goals in all competitions.
That was then. And playing for the national side always seems to lift a German players quality. And credit the young players for adding influence. Nine of the players in Joachim Low's team were members of the 2009 UEFA U-21 championship team.
Pundits insist 21-year-old attacking midfielder Mesut Osil has played to a standard surpassing Lionel Messi in the tournament. That's a bit of a stretch, but his play has been among the best, especially from a creative perspective, using his speed and natural ability to find space where there is none.
Osil, Thomas Muller, and Sami Khedira are the new generation of German soccer player, re-inventing the way the nation plays the game, showing a lot more adventuresome play and imagination than in the past.
And perhaps the biggest factor playing into Germany's favour Saturday is Low's influence. Where Maradona stirs the pot, Low remains grounded. Ahead of Saturday's game, Low was respectful of his opponent, declaring Argentina one of the favouritea to win the tournament.
It's this kind of focus that's boded well for his young team. If a team plays to the attitude and influence of their coach, Germany has nothing to worry about.
Argentina fans just hope their players continue to play like Maradona did back in the day, and not act like buffoons as is his style now.