Ardiles: No way of knowing Argentina chances

SINGAPORE - Argentina are as likely to win the 2010 World Cup in South Africa as they are to be knocked out in the group stage, 1978 World Cup winner Ossie Ardiles has said.

With the emotional Diego Maradona at the helm, Argentina's qualifying campaign was a rollercoaster ride, with victory in the final two games sealing a place at the finals as South America's fourth best team.

Despite making heavy weather of getting to South Africa, talk since then has inevitably turned to their chances of winning the tournament for the first time since the diminutive Maradona lifted the trophy in 1986.

"I guess that a bit like Diego himself, there's no middle ground," a sweating Ardiles told Reuters after a coaching clinic on Singapore's Padang field.

"I can just as easily see Argentina winning it or I can see us going home after 10 days."

Argentina have been drawn in Group B for the June 11-July 11 World Cup in South Africa alongside Nigeria, South Korea and Greece.

"We have the calibre and quality of players to win it but our qualifying campaign showed that having a cast of world-class players doesn't automatically convert into a unbeatable team."

Argentina were humbled 6-1 by Bolivia and 3-1 at home to rivals Brazil in qualifying before scraping through to South Africa with a 1-0 win over Uruguay in their final match.

Ardiles, a good friend and former team mate of Maradona, believes that the current coach is beginning to put his mark on the team and has learned from the mistakes made in qualifying, where the coach chopped and changed his team regularly.

"I think, and perhaps even he will admit it, Diego picked some odd players in qualifying," explained the former Tottenham player.

"Anyway, I think he now knows his best team and the performance against Germany (Argentina won 1-0 last month) showed that Diego understands what is required of him as a coach. It was an impressive performance."

BRAZIL AND SPAIN

Ardiles, however, doesn't subscribe to the view that the inspirational Lionel Messi is the key to Argentina success in South Africa.

"Of course, everyone is expecting Messi to be the player of the tournament but great players do not win World Cups on their own. Even in 1986, Diego didn't win the World Cup all on his own."

If Argentina do progress to the latter stages, Ardiles expects Spain and Brazil to be the main threat.

"Any team which can leave Cesc Fabregas on the bench, has to be feared," was his verdict on Vicente Del Bosque's men. As for Brazil? "It's hard to single anyone out in that team because they are all so good."

England, however, where Ardiles made his name as player, are not the threat they were, said the 57-year-old.

"A few months ago, they were very settled and had great confidence but they have some injury problems and some weaknesses.

"If (Wayne) Rooney gets injured, I don't think they have someone else like him. And they are weak in goal as well. I don't think Rio Ferdinand is fit either.

"But I don't see any issue with the scandal between John Terry and Wayne Bridge," Ardiles said after newspaper revelations that the former England captain had an extra-marital affair with the ex-partner of his team-mate.

"Believe me, I was a room mate of Maradona's so I know all about scandal and problems."

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