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Maradona poised for first game as Argentina coach

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by REUTERS

Latest update : 2008-11-19

Football legend Diego Maradona and the Argentina team landed in Scotland where the 'albiceleste' will play a friendly game on Wednesday. Argentina is facing a crisis as the team has only won one of its last eight matches.

 

GLASGOW - Diego Maradona's extraordinary career comes full circle when Argentina face Scotland in a friendly at Hampden Park on Wednesday (2000 GMT).

 

There have been plentiful highs and lows, including a brush with death in 2004, since Maradona gave a scintillating performance as an 18-year-old in Argentina's 3-1 friendly win over the Scots in February 1979.

 

Whether Maradona, who lifted the World Cup in 1986, can have a positive impact as coach is the question being debated in Buenos Aires and around the world.

 

"Of course this is a new start. But I'm not looking at it as if I have to show things. I'm here to give my support, my experience to the national team," he said.

 

Wednesday's game will be closely monitored by the family of football and he will want it to go better than his World Cup debut as a player, a shock defeat for the-then holders against Belgium in the opening game of the 1982 finals in Spain.

 

For the moment, and in the absence of key players Lionel Messi and Juan Roman Riquelme, Maradona just wants some of his aura to rub off on this generation, having been an inspiration behind the scenes for their Olympic gold medal three months ago.

 

"As long as we've got the ball and we get some respect for the jersey I'll go away very calm," Maradona told reporters upon arrival in Glasgow.

 

"I'm not asking the lads for more, they've taken some knocks."

 

Argentina have won only one of their last eight matches and were beaten 1-0 by Chile last month, a World Cup qualifying result that led to Alfio Basile's resignation as coach.

 

 

 

OTHER OPTIONS

 

"That's what I'll ask of them, to play for Maradona," added the 48-year-old.

 

"I'd have liked to have had them but Argentina can't stand with their arms crossed if they don't have Riquelme and Messi. We have to look for alternatives and we have them."

 

The match should answer questions about who Maradona views as a playmaker, with Independiente's Daniel Montenegro a possibility, and where he sees Carlos Tevez fitting in, attacking from deep or as a front man.

 

Porto midfielder Lucho Gonzalez is back after losing favour with Basile while Ezequiel Lavezzi, wowing the Napoli crowd as Maradona once did, may get the chance to establish himself as more than a bit-part player.

 

Maradona comes face to face again with two men who were on the receiving end of two stand-out moments in his career that define the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the Argentine.

 

Scotland coach George Burley has immense respect for the stocky former number 10, having been one of the defenders facing his silky skills in the 1979 friendly.

 

Burley's assistant Terry Butcher is a more grudging admirer. He was also on the pitch when Maradona's infamous Hand of God goal helped Argentina beat England 2-1 in Mexico on their way to winning the 1986 World Cup.

 

Date created : 2008-11-18

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