Argentina vs. Nigeria: Big test for Argentina's coach Maradona
Argentina coach Diego Armando Maradona was a brilliant player. But as national team manager, there's been more trouble than brilliance – like some of his team picks, for example.
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Messi himself has flip-flopped a bit the last week. First he told Fifa.com: "I can picture us getting to the Final, winning it and holding the Trophy aloft. I haven't even thought about how we'll get there, but I'm convinced we're going to win it."Skip to next paragraph
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But then he also said: "If we look at player by player, there is no team better than Argentina. But I don't promise anything."
They start their campaign just as they did in Japan eight years ago, with a game against Nigeria. That is probably not the best omen, for Argentina was knocked out at the opening round back then, in spite of being one of the hot favorites to take the title.
Africa's most populous country is also the one that has produced more top class players than any of its continental rivals. But its football is mired in the same corruption and disorganization as the rest of its institutions.
Preparations this time around have been similarly shambolic, with the manager who guided them through the qualifiers being fired and replaced at the last minute with Swede Lars Lagerback. To make matters worse, it lacks a big name such as Nwankwo Kanu, Jay-Jay Okocha or Daniel Amokachi.
There could be something tragically symbolic about their final warm-up match against North Korea. Fifteen people were injured when fans battled with police outside the stadium after authorities closed the gates. Nigeria will do well to avoid similar confusion when the competition starts.
World Cup 101:
- World Cup 101: Why is the World Cup in South Africa?
- World Cup 101: Is South Africa really prepared to host the World Cup?
- World Cup 101: Who’s favored to win it all?
- World Cup 101: How does the tournament work?
- World Cup 101: Why is the World Cup such a big deal?