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10.29.2008

Diego Armando Maradone is the new coach for Argentina

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Argentinian most important star, Diego Maradona, has capped a remarkable comeback from a near fatal heart attack four years ago by being named coach of the national side.

Diego Armando Maradona, who will be 48 today and has no top-level coaching experience, said he hoped to repeat the success of the 1986 World Cup when as a player he inspired them virtually single-handedly to the title.

Indeed, the popular "Diego"sted in the mission of winning the 2010 World Cup in South Africa by another integral member of the 1986 set-up, coach Carlos Bilardo, who will be the director of football. Their roles were rubber-stamped at a meeting with Argentinian Football Association president Julio Grondona.

"During the conversation with Grondona and Bilardo it became clear that I was to coach the team," said Maradona, whose international playing career came to an ignominious end when he failed a drug test at the 1994 World Cup in the US.

"Grondona's ideas are the same as mine and Bilardo's. My job will be to go and watch the players as often as possible. The idea is to return the squad to the spirit of 1986."

Maradona, who was also part of the Argentinian side which muscled its way into the 1990 final only to have two players sent off and lose 1-0 to West Germany, takes over from Alfio Basile.

As we know, Basile resigned a fortnight ago after a FIFA World Cup qualifying defeat to Chile, which leaves Argentina in third place in the South America qualifying group. Maradona is regarded as one of the greatest footballers and shared FIFA's Player-of-the-Century award with Brazilian legend Pele.

At club level the pint-sized midfielder played for Club Atletico Boca Juniors, before moving to Barcelona for two seasons in 1982. After Spain he went to Napoli, his bustling play and talismanic presence driving the Italian side to two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990 and a UEFA Cup triumph in 1989.

Maradona finished his career at Boca in 1997, but controversy was never far from the dark-haired maestro. He was twice banned for drug infringements, was linked to the Mafia and was not fond of paparazzi intrusions.

However, it is his goal against England at the 1986 World Cup that towers above all else. The infamous "Hand of God" came during Argentina's 2-1 win in the quarter-final, when Maradona rose above keeper Peter Shilton to punch the ball into the net. Despite English protests the referee never spotted the incident.

Later in the match Maradona showed what he could do with his feet, sublimely weaving through the England team from the halfway line, taking on Terry Butcher and Terry Fenwick, to slot the ball home.

Balance, vision, and a powerful left foot marked him out from a very early age. At 17 he made his debut for the national side. The spectre of drug abuse surfaced in 1991 when he tested positive for cocaine and was hit with a 15-month ban.

Health problems followed his retirement and in 2000 he suffered a heart attack in Uruguay, reportedly brought on by a cocaine overdose. His convalescence involved a spell in Cuba at the request of Fidel Castro.

Despite his demons Maradona still enjoys the adulation of millions in his home country.

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Nigerian striker Kanu aims the 2010 World Cup

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Nigeria footballer Nwan-kwo Kanu has said his side are bent on qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after they missed out on last tournament in Germany 2006.

“I can say that both the senior players and the new ones have one common goal — which is to be part of South Africa 2010,” said Kanu, who has already played at two World Cups.

“We missed the last World Cup and we all know how Nigerians felt watching other African teams steal the show in Germany.

“We therefore can’t afford another such experience and that’s why we’re resolved to doing everything to qualify.”

Kanu added: “There is a new belief from the players and as such there are no longer issues over allowances and bonuses, which were once a major problem with the federation.”

The Super Eagles are drawn in Group Two along with Tunisia, Kenya and Mozambique in a final qualifying tournament that will begin in March.

Indeed, the Portsmouth frontman also insisted that he will be part of the trip for a friendly in Colombia on Nov 19 despite reports in the local press to the contrary that several of Nigeria’s stars want to be excused from the long trip to South America.

“Even if the Super Eagles play in Iraq or Afghanistan, I will be with the team because I’m a captain that leads by example. And it is not for us as players to pick and choose the matches we want to play,” said Kanu.

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