Saturday, July 3, 2010

Maradona's reaction to the loss

''I may leave tomorrow, but I'd like that these boys continue showing who they are and keep playing real Argentina football,'' said Maradona, looking exhausted and heartbroken.

Asked to clarify his plans, he said ''I'll have to think carefully about it ... and talk with my family, and the players. There are many issues here.''

Maradona, widely considered Argentina's all-time greatest player, was derided back home before the tournament for leading the team by instinct and emotion rather than tactics. He attacked at his critics with a stream of profanities when Argentina qualified for the World Cup at the last minute.

© AP
After three group stage victories and a convincing 3-1 win over Mexico in the round of 16, even his detractors began questioning whether they had underestimated his coaching abilities.

Maradona's affectionate hugs and go-get-'em pep talks seemed to yield better results than the tactical advice handed out by more serious coaches like England's Fabio Capello.

Then Germany came along.

Argentina and Maradona didn't know how to respond when Thomas Mueller's early goal left the South Americans trailing for the first time in the tournament.

Maradona made no changes at halftime, even though his team had struggled throughout the first half, losing possession as soon as it crossed into the German area. He sent on midfielder Javier Pastore for defender Nicolas Otamendi after Germany went up 2-0 and was getting ready to further boost the attack with striker Sergio Aguero when Arne Friedrich made it 3-0.

With the game virtually over, Maradona hugged Aguero - his son-in-law - and clung to him as the Germans celebrated.

''This is the most difficult experience of my life, because to (lose) in front of so many good players, such good people, such good professionals is like getting punched by Muhammad Ali,'' he said. ''I don't have any energy left.''

He said he'd only felt similar emotions in life on the day he retired from soccer.

Still, Maradona didn't accept any blame for the crushing defeat, and lashed out at a reporter who questioned whether his critics in Argentina might be satisfied with the loss.

''Are you joking,'' he said. ''This is a country where you live and breathe football. I don't think that anyone will be happy when the team loses 4-0.''

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