Maradona hints at opening World Cup XI

BUENOS AIRES - Diego Maradona said on Friday that Argentina's line-up in their World Cup opener against Nigeria could be identical to the one which started the 1-0 win over Germany in a warm-up in Munich last month.

Maradona, speaking to local radio station FM Metro, said Argentina will play with four centre-backs and Jonas Gutierrez and Angel Di Maria on the wings at the tournament in South Africa.

He added that 20 players were sure of a place in the squad for the finals starting on June 11. Argentina meet Nigeria in Johannesburg on June 12 in Group B which also involves South Korea and Greece.

"I tried out lots of full-backs, I tried with (Javier) Zanetti, (Emiliano) Papa, and I finished up with four central defenders," Maradona said.

He named Nicolas Otamendi of Velez Sarsfield and the European-based Martin Demichelis, Walter Samuel and Gabriel Heinze, who were his back four in the Munich friendly.

"I think I'm going to play like that, they're the ones who give me guarantees at the back. They didn't concede a goal and (Germany) didn't create any goal chances," he said.

Apart from the recently recalled Inter Milan defender Samuel, it was also Maradona's back four in Argentina's final qualifier, a 1-0 win over Uruguay in Montevideo in October that secured their place at the finals.

Maradona said Jonas Gutierrez, "who gave me a lot" on the right, and Angel Di Maria would be his wings as against Germany.

"I spoke to (Gutierrez) and reassured him that even if he went down to the C (third division) with Newcastle I was going to take him," he said.

As it happened, Gutierrez helped Newcastle regain promotion to the Premier League from the second-tier English Championship at the first attempt this month.

Asked for more details and whether he had already settled on 20, Maradona ran through some of Argentina's biggest names, saying: "'Masche', Veron, Tevez, Messi, 'el Kun' (Sergio Aguero)...Yes, we're there."

Captain Javier Mascherano, Juan Sebastian Veron and Lionel Messi were in the team in Munich along with striker Gonzalo Higuain, who scored the goal.

Tevez was a substitute while Aguero had been an uncertainty for the World Cup with Argentina strong on strikers.

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