Papa perfect for Maradona's Argentina

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GLASGOW - Emiliano Papa enjoyed a double celebration on Wednesday, making his Argentina debut on the same night that Diego Maradona took charge of the national team for the first time in a 1-0 win over Scotland.

While Maradona was making his international coaching bow, Papa, a left back for Velez Sarsfield, was the sole new player and the only home-based one in the side.

The 26-year-old is no greenhorn, however, with several years of experience in Argentina's first division playing for Rosario Central and Velez.

"To be here in the squad for the first time and that the coach should be the national team's best ever player are things you'll never forget," he told Reuters on Thursday.

Papa gave a mature performance against Scotland on the left of a defence made up of Javier Zanetti, winning his 128th cap on the right, and Martin Demichelis and Gabriel Heinze in the middle.

"I felt on a par with the team, good and with confidence. I liked how the team played," he said.

Papa expects Maradona to be a success.

"With the quality of players he has, he can manage any playing system," he said.

HALFTIME ENCOURAGEMENT

Maradona was happy with Argentina's first half, in which they took an eighth-minute lead through Maxi Rodriguez, and told the team at the interval.

"He told us to keep passing the ball, that we should play whenever we could because that was where we could be superior," Papa said.

"Now he'll keep correcting things so that the team plays better and better which is what we all want.

"I'm sure that a lot of players playing in the (home) country and in the rest of the world will pass through his mind," he added of Maradona's search for Argentina's best lineup.

Papa said the squad had supported Maradona when his pregnant daughter Giannina was taken ill on Tuesday, adding that the former World Cup-winning captain had instilled confidence in the players for the match.

"Perhaps he did look rather down. We tried to be as positive as we could so things would turn out well," Papa said.

"He transmitted a lot to us and we tried to make the most of that."