Bigger tests ahead for Maradona

Diego Maradona's crisis management appears to have worked well enough for Argentina to regain some pride and win their friendly against a committed if average Scotland.

Greater tests than Wednesday 1-0 win at Hampden Park await, however, and a long hiatus before Maradona gets his next chance to test himself as an international coach against France in February.

Invoking his pet theme of love for the Argentina colours, Maradona said: "We had a good match, knowing that we were in crisis. The players gave everything for the jersey. The click I wanted to see in the players, I got, which was to overcome the fear of losing. I think we did this wholeheartedly."

Argentina had won only once in eight matches and reached a low ebb in a comprehensive if meagre 1-0 loss to Chile last month that led to former coach Alfio Basile's resignation.

"We did everything we had planned before the match," Maradona told Wednesday's post-match news conference. There are players who were incredible in the team camp... who give their lives for the jersey.

"I want to assure Argentines that they will give their lives in each match, they will do anything so the team plays better every time."

About 70 per cent of Argentines thought Maradona's appointment earlier this month was a mistake given his lack of coaching experience.

The jury could be said to be out after just one match against a team which is among a second tier of nations internationally and will struggle to make it to the 2010 World Cup.

"There were quite a number of good individual performances that leave me satisfied enough to face the future calmly," Maradona said.

He is lucky, though, that after facing France in Marseille in three months' time, he has two of South America's weakest sides to meet in the World Cup qualifiers at the end of March.

Argentina are third in the 10-nation group six points behind leaders Paraguay but only three in front of Uruguay in the fifth place that is synonymous with facing a CONCACAF team in a playoff.

They meet Venezuela at home before facing Bolivia away in the rarefied atmosphere of La Paz, which is usually visiting team's greatest obstacle against the Bolivians at nearly 4,000 metres.

By the time Argentina play hosts to arch rivals Brazil, now second in the group, in Buenos Aires in June Maradona will hope to have consolidated his team among the qualifying places.

That will be his true exam and inspiring Argentina to a victory in their biggest match, one that overshadows meetings with the major European teams and notably England, could be his real breakthrough.

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