'A punch from Muhammad Ali'

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:27 PM ET

CAPE TOWN -- He hugged almost each and every one of his emotionally-crushed players when it was over, even smooching the odd one. Was this Diego Maradona's way of kissing the Argentine national team goodbye?

Much like his players, the outspoken Argentina manager was in shock after his team had been embarrassed 4-0 by Germany in a World Cup quarterfinal at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town on Saturday. So much so, he could not make a firm commitment on his future.

Not in the devastation of the moment, anyway. Not on this, his self-proclaimed worst day in the sport.

"Today, close to the 50 years old I will be on Oct. 30, this is the hardest thing I've experienced," Maradona said. "This was a punch from Muhammad Ali. I have no strength for anything.

"The day I quit playing football maybe was similar but this is much harder."

The loss was Argentina's worst at a World Cup since they were slammed 6-1 by Czechoslovakia in 1958.

As he sat on the podium in front of the media, Maradona, for the first time in this tournament, struggled to find the right words. This from the man who told the legendary Pele he should go back "in the museum;" who slagged Brazil, Spain and Italy; and who mocked German midfielder Bastien Schweinsteiger, using a bad Bavarian accent to ask if he was "nervousssh." All in a matter of three weeks.

And now, his team that had previously breezed to a 4-0 record while outscoring the opposition 10-2, was going home.

"I'll have to think carefully about it," Maradona said when asked about his future. "I must speak to my family, the players ... there's a lot (to talk about). This wasn't the expected finale (for us), but whoever comes in must carry on this path which is the one Argentines like.

"I thanked (the players and coaching staff) for the job they did, that's all."

He also let them know that he did not feel the 4-0 scoreline was a true indication of how they had played.

"(This loss) doesn't knock my pride in my players because I know the result is not a reflection of what happened on the pitch," Maradona said. "They put in their chances, we also had some."

On this day, there were not nearly enough of them for Maradona's crumbling crew.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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