Diego’s bold plan to down the Su­per Ea­gles

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

DIEGO MARADONA is set to un­leash his for­mi­da­ble trio of goal poach­ers to get Ar­gentina off to a fly­ing start at the World Cup against Nige­ria to­day.

The two-time world cham­pi­ons boast a sali­vat­ing for­ward line of Lionel Messi, Car­los Tevez and Gon­zalo Higuain and coach Maradona is tin­ker­ing with pitch­ing in all three in an at­tack­ing 3-4-3 for­ma­tion at El­lis Park.

Be­tween them the daz­zling trio net­ted more than 80 league goals com­bined last ter m for Barcelona, Manch­ester City and Real Madrid.

Ar­gen­tine fans’ favourite Tevez said he hoped to “get the chance to show the coach what I can do. We have great play­ers (and) don’t feel my place is as­sured”.

The Ar­gen­tines may have stum­bled across the fin­ish line in qual­i­fi­ca­tion for South Africa, but Maradona has at his dis­posal a squad of sump­tu­ous tal­ent in his first World Cup as coach.

In­di­ca­tions are that Maradona, who in­spired Ar­gentina as the world’s great­est player to World Cup tri­umph in 1986, will go with a three-man back­line en­abling him to field a three-man strike­force.

Mar­seille cen­tre-half Gabriel Heinze said this week that “Ar­gentina will al­ways go af­ter the game” and not sit tight and be ul­tra-cau­tious.

To­day’s open­ing Group B game of­fers Messi, the world’s best player, and given his sen­sa­tional club form with Barcelona, the ideal stage to stake an early claim as the star of the tour­na­ment.

“Player for player, there is no bet­ter na­tional team than ours,” Messi said.

“At this stage I don’t have to prove any­thing. I’ve come here to do things well for me and for my team­mates.”

Heinze moved to ease the enor­mous bur­den of ex­pec­ta­tions on Messi to per­form, say­ing that Ar­gentina was not de­pen­dent on the diminu­tive play­maker.

“Ev­ery­body ex­pects some­thing when­ever Lionel touches the ball, that’s nor­mal, he’s the best in the world and is in his best moment, but Ar­gentina do not de­pend on him but on the group,” Heinze said.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble what he does but he is one more player and he can make mis­takes.

“I be­lieve it’s the team that makes you win these very dif­fi­cult tour­na­ments.”

Ar­gentina have beaten Nige­ria twice at the World Cup – 1-0 in 2002 and 2-1 in 1994 – and will be favoured to do so again.

The mood in­side Africa’s most pop­u­lous nation is not overly op­ti­mistic about the Su­per Ea­gles’ chances against Ar­gentina.

But their vet­eran Portsmouth striker Nwankwo Kanu holds out hope that Nige­ria will not be in­tim­i­dated in what will be their first com­pet­i­tive game un­der Swedish coach Lars Lager­back.

“Ar­gentina have the big-name play­ers and ev­ery­one re­spects them. We also ac­knowl­edge that they are good and great play­ers,” he said.

“But Ar­gentina also have the same re­spect for us be­cause they know the qual­ity of our team and know that there is plenty that we can come up with at any­time.”

All the same the pres­sure will be on Ar­gentina to come through their open­ing match with a win to set a plat­form for a crack at a third world ti­tle. – Sapa-AFP

THE BEST LAID PLANS: Ar­gentina’s Car­los Tevez looks a lit­tle puz­zled as head coach Diego Maradona makes a point at a train­ing ses­sion this week.

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