Pretoria: Argentina coach Diego Maradona admitted he is concerned about the physical threat Nigeria will pose in their Group B World Cup opener in Johannesburg tomorrow.
The 49-year-old, who lifted the World Cup as Argentina captain in 1986, having infamously scored a goal with his hand against England in the quarter-finals, said he hoped the referees would ensure the Africans play fair.
"We know how Nigeria play and they know how we play. We don`t expect to play a rough and tough team, although we`re ready to play any team," said Maradona, whose international career ended in disgrace when he failed a drugs test at the 1994 World Cup finals when Nigeria were also in their group.”
"But the only thing I can say right now is those looking for fair-play should not stand alone.”
"Let`s really look for fair-play and referees should understand what fair-play is.”
"When fair-play started in 1990 (four years after Maradona`s `Hand of God`) I got a kick from a Cameroon player (in the opening game of the 1990 World Cup, that the Africans won 1-0) who nearly kicked my head off.”
"(Claudio) Caniggia got a yellow card for a small kick and I nearly got kicked in the head.”
"We`ve been through that but we want good football, we want fair-play, we want to enjoy the match.”
"If you don`t want to play clean football, go into the stands. People want to see football and we want people to watch football peacefully without violence."
Although he may be worried about Nigeria`s physical presence, he did have a word of warning for the Super Eagles` Swedish coach Lars Lagerback, who only took over on a five-month deal in February.
"I don`t think it`s a good thing to change a coach on such short notice but perhaps he can introduce some good elements, such as set-pieces," said Maradona.
"But it all depends on the players and he`ll have to plan his matches according to the players he has.”
"But in football you need continuity and I wish him all the best but he has very little time to work on many things he should be doing as a coach."