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Diego Maradona Steals The Limelight

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June 13, 2010

(KOMPAS.COM)  Diego Maradona chided his Argentina players for wasting too many chances in their opening win against Nigeria at the World Cup, Saturday, saying they need to score more goals in future games. Maradona said it seemed like his players “couldn’t see the goal” and were too forgiving as they squandered numerous scoring opportunities in their 1-0 victory.

“We should not forgive, that’s what I told them after the match,” a relaxed Maradona said. “In football, to forgive is to pay.”

Maradona also praised Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who made spectacular saves against Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain to keep the Africans in the game.

“Today we took a very important step but we have to improve many things to reach the seventh match,” Maradona said in reference to the tournament final. “Still, the boys did well.” Making his World Cup coaching debut, Maradona said everything would be fine if the missed opportunities meant Argentina was saving some goals for Thursday’s encounter with South Korea. “Goals aren’t missed on purpose,” Maradona said. “Winning has given us a certain calm for the next match.”

Before the game, Maradona seemed not to have a care in the world. As Ellis Park was filling up with thousands of Argentine fans, he walked around the edge of the pitch calling out to apparent acquaintances in the stands, listened to the crowd serenading their hero and allowed himself to be followed around by dozens of photographers taking pictures of him dressed in warmups.

During the game, after putting on a suit and tie before sitting on the Argentina bench, Maradona did not seem all that different from other coaches, trying to make his players move into position and giving instructions to substitutes about to enter the game.

But his reaction to the final whistle from German referee Wolfgang Stark was telling Maradona began hugging and patting the backs of his assistants, the substitutes on the bench and the players coming off the field as if Argentina had just won the final, not the first game of the group phase.

Maradona was especially outgoing with Messi, giving him a bear hug and lifting him off the ground in celebration. “I want Messi always close to the ball and he was,” Maradona said. “He did terrific things today.”

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