Maradona claims Brazil are still favourites
Tuesday 22 June 2010
Argentina coach Diego Maradona was keen to play down the growing expectations surrounding his in-form side, insisting Brazil are still his favourites to walk off with the World Cup.
Despite boasting a glittering array of attacking talent, there were question marks hanging over Argentina heading into the tournament following a rocky qualifying campaign.
However, Maradona's side have undoubtedly been one of the most impressive side in South Africa so far after picking up back-to-back wins over Nigeria (1-0) and South Korea (4-1).
That has left Argentina three points clear at the top of Group B heading into this evening's clash with Greece in Polokwane, when just a point will be enough to guarantee them a spot in the last 16.
With many of the other supposed top sides struggling so far, Argentina's chances of lifting the World Cup for a third time appear to be rising, but Maradona insists he does not want his to be saddled with the favourites' tag.
"We aren't either candidates or favourites, we're here to play a World Cup," he said.
"I don't want to be favourites, not before coming to South Africa and not now.
"All the teams here can score against you, so you have to be wary all the time.
"We just want to be the same as normal. We're here to keep our fans happy, to play the way we want to play, and I think things so far are going well.
"Brazil can play badly but still win games, that's why they are still the great favourites."
Although his side are not yet assured of a place in the knockout stages, Maradona looks set to ring the changes for tonight's game.
Jonas Gutierrez is suspended while captain Javier Mascherano and Gabriel Heinze could both be among those rested as they are one booking away from a ban.
Meanwhile, veteran playmaker Juan Sebastian Veron could return after missing the game against South Korea with a calf problem.
One player Maradona has assured will feature though is star playmaker Lionel Messi.
The coach added: "He will play. If you have a player as good as Leo, who is the best player in the world, I think it would be a sin not to give Messi to the people, to the team, and leave out the player who can certainly make the difference in a match."
Greece have a chance to create another piece of footballing history for their country as, if they better South Korea's result against point-less Nigeria, they will progress to the knockout stage.
The surprise 2004 European champions won their first World Cup match at only their second tournament when they came from behind to beat Nigeria last week.
However, coach Otto Rehhagel said the squad was fully focused on tackling Argentina and not on what the future may hold.
"First of all we will think about the match ahead of us. We will not talk about anything else," said the veteran German boss.
"That is all we are interested in - I am not interested in anything else.
"We want to be physically and psychologically ready to go into this battle.
"But the players realise they have it all to play for and nothing to lose."
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