Maradona: Messi will eclipse Ronaldo at World Cup

JOHANNESBURG - Lionel Messi has overtaken Cristiano Ronaldo as the world's best player and could take Argentina to the final of the World Cup, coach Diego Maradona said on Thursday.

Touring South Africa to inspect his team's World Cup base at Pretoria University and other venues, Maradona was cheered by construction workers when he visited the huge showpiece Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, where the opening game and final will be played.

"This is a beautiful stadium. I would love to play but my time has passed," he said.

Argentina, who have not won the tournament since their 1986 victory inspired by Maradona as a player, will face South Korea, Greece and Nigeria in the first round.

Maradona pinned his hopes on Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, current FIFA World Player of the Year.

"Today the best player in the world is Messi, without doubt, and to leave Cristiano Ronaldo second that means you have to be very, very good."

Maradona, who completed a two-month FIFA ban on Friday for making lewd comments to reporters after Argentina qualified, added: "Messi will make a great impression in this World Cup. He has what it takes and we will help him.

"I hope Messi emerges as the great player that he is and that we can all help him to the final."

Maradona dismissed fears about security at the tournament from June to July in South Africa, which has one of the world's highest rates of violent crime.

"I don't have any doubt this is going to be a great World Cup and there won't be any problems with security. (People) shouldn't be afraid of anything," he said.