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Maradona's Tentative First Step
Guardian, November 20th, 2008 11:31AM

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"It is all very well creating a circus but what of the act?" asks Andy Hunter after Diego Maradona's coaching debut for Argentina in Scotland Wednesday, which ended in a 1-0 exhibition win. The answer was: a "tentative first step for a team with designs on a third World Cup in 2010, a giant leap for a manager who has a legion of admirers but is confronting a world full of doubters, too."

Hunter said that Maradona's clenched-fist salute at the final whistle "signalled a personal battle won," and that Argentina will rest a little easier "knowing there may be substance in their icon's surprise appointment after all." The coach himself said he had spent the week lifting player morale after a recent poor run in South American World Cup qualifying.

"We needed to get out of a bad run," said Maradona. "We reached a low point with the defeat against Chile, but it wasn't a case of blaming other people but working out why. I have succeeded in removing the fear of defeat from the players. It has been a long time since we won and expressed ourselves on the pitch like that. Tonight we played for the blue and white and for the people of Argentina."

Although Argentina dominated Scotland, it will need to improve the "obvious flaw" of its defense, writes Hunter. However, the "enviable talent" elsewhere on the side was evident in the first 25 minutes when Scotland rarely touched the ball, and Maxi Rodriguez scored the game's only goal. "We were always in control of the ball and it was a deserved victory," said Maradona, who immediately after the game flew to Madrid, where his 18-year-old daughter Giannina is in hospital due to complications with her pregnancy.

 

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