Maradona, Argentina focused on Germany
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
Argentina’s coach Diego Maradona catches the ball during a soccer training session in Pretoria, June 30, 2010. (ENRIQUE MARCARIA/Reuters)
PORT ELIZABETH -- It was the chance to kick the hated Brazilians while they were down, an opportunity to get a stinging shot in at his despised South American cousins.
Yet, shockingly, Diego Maradona chose not to do it.
Such is the enormity of Saturday's huge quarterfinal matchup between Maradona's Argentines and the young Germans at Green Point Stadium, with a date in the semis hanging in the balance.
With Brazil having been stunned 2-1 by the Netherlands on Friday, most expected Maradona to enjoy a sarcastic feast at the expense of his South American cousins. After all, he has taken shots at both Pele and the Brazilians earlier in the tournament, telling Pele he should go back "to the museum" and claiming Brazil had not played all that well.
But when asked about the fate of the Brazilians during his press conference Friday, the normally outspoken Maradona toned down his comments.
"That is Brazil's problem," the Argentine manager said. "I am in another business. I have other things on my mind at the moment. The game against Germany is all I am thinking about.
"We are not candidates (to win). We are not the favourites. But to beat us, our opponents are going to have to play very well and leave everything on the pitch -- including their skin.
"We know our opponents have always played well against Argentina, but if we keep the ball, they will have to run for a long time without even touching it. As I have said before, I respect all our opponents, but I don't fear anyone."
Of course, that didn't preclude the Argentines from playing mind games.
Instead of working out at Cape Town's Green Point Stadium as was the original plan, the Argentines held a closed practice at their base in Pretoria.
How do we know they actually took to the pitch if no media were allowed inside? The Argentines figured that question would be asked, so they reportedly supplied one single photo of the players running around.
As well, Lionel Messi, the world's best player, didn't practise because of a mild cold, we are told. If that indeed is the case, don't expect a bout of the sniffles to keep the world's top player out of the game
Meanwhile, Maradona has cranked up his pep talks, telling his players that the entire country is counting on them to win.
"The Argentinian people depend on this team to be able to get up in the morning with a smile on their faces when bad things are happening," Maradona said.
If the Germany-Argentina game on the field is anything like the chatter off it the past week, it should be a classic.