Pretoria: Argentina coach Diego Maradona admitted on Saturday that he is concerned by the threat posed by Mexico’s attacking players ahead of Sunday’s second round clash.
Argentina qualified for the last 16 by winning all three of their group games while Mexico’s progress was more erratic, drawing with hosts South Africa, losing to Uruguay but beating France 2-0 in a stunning performance.
And it is the prospect of a repeat of that swashbuckling attacking display that has Maradona biting his nails.
“Mexico have Rafael Marquez, (Andres) Guardado, Giovanni Dos Santos, many players that worry us,” said Maradona.
“It’s impossible to know what team they will play. Yesterday I had some information that it will be one team then this morning other information that it would be another.
“I don’t know if (Cuauhtemoc) Blanco will play, or (Guillermo) Franco, although I hope he doesn’t because he’s good in the air.
“I think (Javier) Hernandez will play, he moves well all across the front line.
“I think Marquez will play at sweeper because he looked lost in midfield. But these are just my ideas.
“We know it will be a tough match but with the team and players we have, we can move forward.”
Maradona also spoke of his admiration for Mexico coach Javier Aguirre, the former boss of Atletico Madrid who is in his second stint at the national team helm.
“I respect him a lot, we spoke at length with Kun (Sergio Aguero) and Maxi (Rodriguez, both of whom played under Aguirre at Atletico),” said Maradona.
“This gentleman has had a great career, he’s a great coach and he’s brought Mexico into the second round.
“They struggled to reach round of 16 and made great sacrifices and it’s fair to say they have not been as impressive as ourselves as we had a tougher group to negotiate.
“But it’s a matter of respect, we’re going to respect Mexcio and they should respect us, they should be aware that Argentina has a great history.”
The 49-year-old also had a pop at his critics back home in Argentina for not having faith in his methods during a troublesome qualifying campaign in which they suffered a record-equalling 6-1 defeat to minnows Bolivia and only secured their passage to South Africa in their final match.
“We’re in great shape, of course there’s always few small things to solve within the group but it’s not easy to go from being nobodies in your country and then going on to win three (World Cup) matches and keeping your concentration,” he said.
“People said we were a disaster, the worst team they’d ever seen, now they’re saying we’re an excellent team.
“We have the same players so you shouldn’t believe everything you hear. I’m just going to go on doing what I want with the same thoughts and ideas as before and to continue to work as I have been.
“I keep saying the others are favourites and we’re here to fight but now this is a fight for history because when the roads become short and narrow, this is where history really begins.”
Maradona said the criticisms were water off an old duck’s back but he called on the press to apologise for what they wrote in the past.
“I’m going to be 50 on October 30, I’m grown up now so no, I don’t hold a grudge,” he said.
“But what makes me mad is when they (the press) lack respect to the players and when they don’t know how to apologise when it’s necessary to apologise.”