Maradona admits World Cup will get tougher

Argentina coach Diego Maradona admitted his side will face greater tests after their 2-0 victory over Greece at the Peter Mokaba Stadium made it three wins in succession in Group B.

Defender Martin Demichelis and substitute Martin Palermo scored the goals in the last 13 minutes after finally breaking through a determined Greek rearguard action.



Bayern Munich centre-back Demichelis fired home from close range in the 77th minute after his header from Lionel Messi's corner bounced back off team-mate Diego Milito.



Boca Juniors striker Palermo tapped in the rebound from Messi's shot to complete the victory a minute from time.



"Now the road gets more difficult," said Maradona.



"You always hear about Germany, Italy, Brazil playing poorly, but they're always in the second round, quarters, semi-finals and the final."



With his side virtually qualified even before they played their final match Maradona made seven changes but insisted on playing Messi and in the process he made the Barcelona forward Argentina's youngest captain two days short of his 23rd birthday.



"It was a unique experience - something very special," said Messi.



"As soon as I knew about it it was just great, unique."



Meanwhile, the 36-year-old Palermo - the least heralded of Argentina's much-celebrated strikeforce - was delighted to have repaid Maradona's faith with a goal.



"This is priceless," said the Boca Juniors forward, who is behind Gonzalo Higuain, Diego Milito, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero in the forwards pecking order. "I will always be grateful to Diego Maradona and to the staff for their confidence in me, knowing there are others ahead of me.



"My team-mates celebrated with me as if they had scored themselves."



Maradona also rounded on his critics, who were many when Argentina stumbled through qualifying and made it only with two wins in their last two matches.



"They (the critics) should apologise to the players, who are 100% professional," said the World Cup winner.



"We are doing our duty, which is to defend the Argentina shirt. Sometimes they are wrong, but those who have also criticised are wrong and should apologise."



The coach was also unimpressed by some strong-arm tactics in trying to keep Messi quiet, which Greece achieved until the last 10 minutes of the game.



"Where is the famous fair play? If every time Lionel Messi gets the ball he is thrown to the ground, what are we talking about?" he added.



"They should get a yellow card to stop it, because that is in the rules."



Greece coach Otto Rehhagel admitted his side were second-best.



"It was a well-deserved victory, no doubt about that," said the 71-year-old German, whose side lost out on second place after South Korea drew with Nigeria.



"We wanted to avoid an early goal, we managed to do that, but of course Argentina has more class and that earned them the win."



"My players played with their hearts and with excitement



"But it was just not enough to cause Argentina much trouble."



Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future