Argentina v Mexico: Time to drop your trousers, Diego tells critics

Diego Maradona yesterday insisted it was time for his critics to hang their heads in shame. He was derided by critics in Argentina before the World Cup as a naive tactician. But three wins later and the tone has changed. Argentina, many now believe, could go on to win the tournament.

However, Maradona was ignoring the U-turn yesterday. "Many journalists should apologise to the players," he said. "I'm not suggesting you drop your trousers, but it would be honest and great so we all get along better."

Argentina only just squeezed through qualifying, when Maradona used more than 100 players. "I am turning 50 and I'm not bitter," he said. "But I get annoyed when people don't respect my players. It isn't easy going from being nobodies back home to winning three matches at a World Cup. At the training camp, we had to swallow what you all said about us being a disaster – the worst Argentine team you'd seen. All of a sudden we're an excellent team... the most handsome people in the 'barrio'!"

The winner of today's match will play either England or Germany, and Maradona isn't buying into the sudden status of Argentina as potential champions. "I still think the other teams are the favourites, but we're fighting for it," he said.

Earlier in the week, Maradona said it would have been a crime to deny the thousands who turned up in Polokwane – and the millions watching Argentina play Greece on television – a chance to see Lionel Messi. The unspoken implication was that resting the young maestro would be a sin as serious as leaving out Maradona in his prime.

So Messi was presented with the yellow captain's armband for the first time, an honour that made a small piece of Argentinian football history as the country's youngest ever leader, two days before his 23rd birthday. If, as some have suggested, the idiosyncratic Argentinian coach is eaten up with envy for his star player, he has a strange way of showing it.

There have been tensions in the past, not least because Maradona, whatever his faults, is above all a patriot. Messi, sent abroad to Barcelona at the ridiculously young age of 12, has occasionally appeared less enthusiastic than some about the national team. At a time when Argentina's qualification campaign was in turmoil, Maradona said publicly that he thought Messi often played for himself, and lacked character.

If there was ever any sort of rift, it is now well and truly healed and the most cynical view would be that Maradona's best chance of winning the World Cup as a manager as well as a player is for Messi to have an outstanding tournament. The signs as Argentina prepare to face Mexico at Soccer City, Johannesburg, this evening are good. At the same stadium he was outstanding in the 4-1 win over South Korea, the sort of scoreline the team deserved in their opening game against Nigeria (won 1-0).

In March, Maradona finally met up with Messi for a long talk (having joked he was harder to contact than Barack Obama) and it was agreed he must have a free role, with the freedom to interchange with other forwards and midfielders, as he does for Barcelona. He looks happier for it and Mexico, although impressively fluid themselves, should beware today.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Sport
David Silva strokes home his and City's second goal
football
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas