Tag Archives: Maradona

Another banner moment for Diego

You know Diego Maradona, and might well loathe him, for his infamous ‘Hand of God.’ Now the Argentinian has offered up a new appendage for abomination; his ‘Flying Foot of Fury.

Dirty Diego couldn’t contain his rage when a fan of UAE club Al Wasl kept pushing up a banner to catch a glimpse of the legendary striker, who recently signed a two-year,  7-million Euro contract to coach the Middle East outfit. Seems there was a bit of a communication problem, as the chubby coach wanted the sign kept down so he could have a photo taken next to it. The solution? Maradona mashed the man’s hand with a blinding left boot. From The Telegraph:

“The banner, sent to him by his daughters Delma and Giannina, read: ‘Babu Estoy con vos te amo –Benja,’ meaning ‘Grandfather I love you and I am with you’ and was signed by his grandson Benjamin.

Maradona later apologised to the Al Wasl supporter.

“I am emotional, this is my nature. I’ve always been like this as a player and coach. Sometimes I feel like I’m a player of Al Wasl.

“The sign was a message from my grandson and daughters in Manchester and Argentina and it means they support me in whatever I do. I apologise to the fan I hurt but I wanted the banner to be seen.”

Maradona went on to register his first competitive victory as coach with the Dubai club with a 3-0 home win over Emirates in the Etisalat Cup.”

Oh, Diego. You dozey dolt. This is the dumbest thing you’ve done since…well, since two days ago, when you told fans who might be “scared” after you lost two of your first three matches to “stay at home, watch some DVD or some comedy series.” As The Guardian suggested, “a dramatization of the Argentinian legend’s managerial career would fit the bill.” I think we just got a new episode.

Ian Harrison

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Batista stakes his claim in Argentina

When Sergio Batista was given the reins of Argentina’s national team on an interim basis, reactions in his home nation were mixed.  Some were still mourning the resignation of national icon Diego Maradona, while others were hoping for a different gaffer, one with some managerial experience in Europe or  Argentina’s domestic league.  After all, Batista was coming off a horrendous experience with the youth squad, having failed to guide Argentina to the World Youth Cup for the first time in recent memory.

Some, however, remember Batista as the brilliant tactical manager who ledArgentina to Olympic gold at Beijing in 2008.  In the process, he found a way to get the most out of his best players, namely Leo Messi, Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano. So how would he perform at the senior level?  The answer, thus far, is magnificently.

Unlike Maradona, Batista has stacked his midfield and defence with more  possession based players, and the results have been astonishing.  Nicolas Ottamendi, Di Maria, and Maxi Rodriguez were replaced by Ever Banega, Esteban Cambiasso, and Javier Zanetti and Argentina has looked unstoppable since.  In fact, following Tuesday’s 4-1 demolition of world champions Spain, supporters of the Albicelestes are no doubt be wondering what could have been had Batista been in charge in South Africa instead of Maradona.

Batista still has a number of upcoming friendlies to justify his appointment as permanent manager, including a match against hated-rivals Brazil. But if the big win over Spain is any indication,  he looks certain to be around for some time.

Hadi Zogheib

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In South America, fresh faces will feel heat fast

New Brazil boss Mano Menezes will hope things are thumbs up from the get-go in his new gig.

With the 2011 Copa America now less than a year away and the 2014 World Cup set to be played on their home continent, the powerhouse nations of South America have decided now is the time for managerial change. And the new men won’t get much time to settle in.

Brazil was first to make a switch, predictably firing the dour Dunga following a disappointing loss to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals of World Cup 2010. Of course, the reason for Dunga’s dismissal was not so much the loss to the Dutch as it was his preferred style of play. Brazilians demand flash and flamboyance, elegance and elan. Watching Dunga’s combative midfield and stonewall defence grind out ugly victories was not enough for Brazil’s critical public. After all, they have the reputation of Joga Bonito to uphold. Enter new manager Mano Menezes. The former Corinthians gaffer has promised to restore samba football. And just in the nick of time too, for it seems as if the whole world is beginning to forget about the famous yellow and green jersey and salivate over the yellow and red strip of Spain instead.  With the next mundial in front of their home fans, anything less than a win that comes with style and flair will be seen as an embarrassment for Brazil.

Then there’s Argentina. After the news of Diego Maradona’s dismissal Tuesday amid a disagreement with Argentine football director Julio Grondona over support staff, the Albicelestes will be keen to make a statement in the coming three years.  They won’t have to wait long for their first measuring stick, having confirmed a Sept. 7 friendly in Buenos Aires against the brand-new World Cup champion Spaniards. The match could also be an interesting gauge for how European teams will fare across the pond in 2014.

Don't let her down - she's too excited.

Like Brazil, Argentina will face the burden of expectation that comes with hosting when they welcome the rest of the continent at next summer’s Copa America. Rumour has it that whoever takes the reins (and the names of potential successors include Alejandro Sabella of Estudiantes, under 20 coach Sergio Batista, and Diego “Don’t kick me, David Beckham” Simeone) will also be expected to at least reach the semi-finals next door in Brazil at World Cup 2014.

So there you have it. The new manager of Brazil is expected to not only win the next World Cup, but to do it with uncompromising style, while Argentina’s next boss will be expected to defeat world champion Spain at home, win the 2011 Copa America, and follow that up with no worse than a final four showing in 2014. No pressure boys…

Hadi Zogheib

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One more with Maradona

The man with two watches sends one below the belt.

Apparently one World Cup with Diego Maradona as manager was not enough for the Argentinian Football Association. The AFA is set to reward the eccentric coach with a new four-year deal that will keep the chubby one at the helm through the 2014 World Cup in neighbouring Brazil.

Diego has yet to officially sign the contract, but the announcement went public Wednesday. He will be under pressure to perform right away, as the 2011 Copa America will be held in Argentina and, unlike his quarter-final defeat in South Africa, no less than winning will be accepted.

And what better way to warm up for the big tourney than to play the new world champions? That’s right, rumour has it Argentina will play a friendly against Spain somewhere in the U.S. (most likely New York) on September 7. Will Maradona actually try to win the midfield battle? Or will he concede the centre of the pitch and play with three defenders and seven strikers? You know he’ll pull something funny out.

Hadi Zogheib

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Make or Break for Maradona

Diego Maradona ... refused to speak at the press conference until Thomas Mueller had left the stage.

Diego Maradona hasn’t been able to stop smiling since arriving in
South Africa. After all, vindication feels pretty damn good. Wasn’t
he supposed to lead his beloved Argentina to certain doom? That’s
what most pundits believed before this tournament began. Instead his
albiceleste have been tearing opponents to shreds with wonderful
positioning, passing, and finishing that’s been a joy to watch.

That being said, Maradona’s ultimate test will be on Saturday versus the
equally impressive Germans. It’s one thing to bully Mexico or South
Korea, but the big bad Germans are a totally different animal (ask Mr.
Capello). And to move on, Diego will have to choose between two
different Argentina teams.

The first option is the Argentina we’ve been accustomed to watching these past two weeks: let’s call them Argentina 1. It features a rampaging Angel Di Maria up the left hand side, Maxi Rodriguez or Juan Veron on the right to distribute, and the three-pronged attack of Messi, Tevez, and Higuain.

This is the fun Argentina, always looking to attack and pelting opponents with shots from every angle. The problem with this team is that Javier
Mascherano is left to defend a heck of a lot of field all by his lonesome in the middle of the park. This may play into the hands of the Germans on the counter attack. Don’t think they can counter with speed? Check out their last two goals versus England.

Instead, Diego may — for the first time this tournament — consider fielding Argentina 2. This is the team that defeated this same German team 1-0 in a friendly in Berlin earlier this year. This squad is much less attacking and
consists of having an extra midfielder in place of one of the three
strikers (probably Tevez). The extra midfielder will provide help for
Mascherano in front of the back four.

So, Mr. Maradona, will it be Argentina 1 which has been successful against lesser opponents so far? Or will it be Argentina 2, which has already beaten the Germans once this year?

Your managerial reputation is on the line….

Hadi Zogheib

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French are toast, while Yakubu’s howler burns Nigerians

It was a contrast in dignity. One team — lowly-ranked before the World Cup even began — put up a desparate last-gasp effort to remain in its own tournament. The other team made a mockery of it.  In the end, both France and South Africa are out… with Bafana Bafana winning 2-1, sending last year’s finalists home to face the wrath of their countrymen. Of course, there was a sending-off, and “Le Fou” Domenech couldn’t leave without one last petty gesture. From the Guardian: Not Everybody Loves Raymond.

In the other game, Uruguay won the group, after it beat Mexico 1-0, who have backed into second place. Before the tournament, many pundits talked about the strike force of Forlan and Suarez (who have both scored), but the Uruguayan defence has yet to concede a goal.

In Group B, Diego Maradona made seven changes to his team, yet they still won comfortably against hapless Greece, 2-0. Maradona has started talking sense, as well. That’s no fun…

The other game was South Korea-Nigeria. (Here’s where I admit my few shortcomings: I wrote Nigeria needed to win by more than a goal. Not true; they just needed a win). Lots of back and forth, with a nice first goal by Nigeria. But the Africans got caught on two set pieces and ended up down 2-1. Yakubu missed a goal that I could have scored drunk.  The Nigerians ended converting a penalty kick, making it 2-2, but it wasn’t enough.

So now it’s Uruguay vs. South Korea, and Argentina-Mexico. Note that three of the five South American teams have now qualified, yet three of six African teams are going home.

Brent Lanthier

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South American teams still unbeaten

Gonzalo Higuain celebrates a goal against South Korea.

With the World Cup well into its second week, there has been a lot of talk about the sub par play of some of the traditional  superpowers, such as England, Italy, Spain and France.  However, another interesting story is unfolding, the superb play of the South American teams.  After Paraguay’s 2-0 victory over Slovakia this morning, and with Brazil’s tantalizing clash with the Ivory Coast still due up today, the South American teams remain unbeaten with a record of 6-0-2.

Paraguay looked solid in holding the defending champions, Italy, to an opening match 1-1 draw (with New Zealand shockingly duplicating the feat today), while Chile were ferocious in dismantling Honduras. Brazil patiently waited to take their chances against a surprisingly stingy North Korean side, putting them in control of their group, while Uruguay are in pole position in Group A, at the expense of the hapless French.  As for Argentina, if Leo Messi’s form holds, I don’t think anyone will fancy a go at Maradona’s boys.  It’s still early, mind you, and the rest of the nations have plenty of time to improve, but for now it’s the South Americans who are stealing the show in South Africa.
Hadi Zogheib

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