Maradona removes fear of defeat among Argentines

November 20th, 2008 - 2:22 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 20 (IANS) Diego Maradona’s journey as the Argentine coach started with a low-key 1-0 victory over Scotland in an international friendly in Glasgow.The manic hype preceding Wednesday’s game at the Hampden Park, where Maradona scored his maiden international goal in 1979, was defused by Maxi Rodriguez’s eighth-minute strike.

“I have dedicated myself 100 percent this week to lifting the morale of the players. We needed to get out of a bad run. We reached a low point with the defeat against Chile but it wasn’t a case of blaming other people but working out why,” Maradona said.

Argentina showed flashes of brilliance of sort that Maradona was famous for but the win was far from being impressive.

The victory, however, was a tentative first step for a team eyeing a third World Cup in 2010 and a giant leap for a manager, who has a legion of admirers and a world full of doubters.

“I have succeeded in removing the fear of defeat from the players. It has been a long time since we won and expressed ourselves on the pitch like that. Tonight we played for the blue and white and for the people of Argentina,” said Maradona.

The visitors were lucky to escape with a win as the hosts failed to take the advantage of several defensive lapses.

“For the first 25 minutes we were excellent but unfortunately after scoring our first goal we couldn’t capitalise on any more chances. But we were always in control of the ball and it was a deserved victory,” said Maradona.

The winner from Rodríguez gave the hint of passing game that could evolve under Maradona. It was an immaculate one-touch move involving Zanetti, Carlos Tevez, Rodríguez, Tevez again, Gutiérrez and finally again bringing the visiting bench to its feet.

But Maradona remained unmoved. The man who was cheering wildly as a spectator throughout the 2006 World Cup in Germany sat with his arms folded before rising to nod his approval.

With the loss, Scotland’s dismal record at Hampden friendlies was stretched - they have failed to win one in 12 years. They also have just one victory from seven outing under manager George Burley and the record doesn’t seem to improve until March when the Scots face the Dutch in Amsterdam Arena.

The Glasgow crowd gave a warm welcome to Maradona and also sang an anti-English song in his honour. But there was little evidence of the entertaining performance Maradona promised his Scottish fans for their warm welcome.

James McFadden came close twice to fire the equaliser in both the halves and Argentina could have won by bigger margin with Javier Mascherano and Ezequiel Lavezzi missing close chances.

At least two of the six changes to the team that lost to Chile 1-0, were forced on Maradona due to the absence of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero. But his team composition suggested a ruthless streak to improve upon the recent poor performances.

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