Promotion gives Gutierrez breather

BUENOS AIRES - Argentina winger Jonas Gutierrez has turned his mind towards the World Cup after the relief of Newcastle United's promotion, saying the play-offs would have exhausted him for the finals in South Africa.

Newcastle secured their return to England's Premier League on Monday by ensuring they finish in the top two and could still be crowned Championship winners.

"I needed us to finish in the top two to go up automatically. If we ended up between third and sixth we'd have had to play the play-offs (for one more promotion spot) and finish very close to the World Cup," he told the Argentine daily Ole.

Gutierrez, one of Argentina coach Diego Maradona's favourite players, thanked him for having advised him to stay at Newcastle when they were relegated last season.

"Diego calmed me when the team were relegated. He told me it didn't matter in which category (division) I played but rather that I played well," he added.

"That was a key because Newcastle weren't going to let me go to another club," said Gutierrez, a virtual certainty to be in Maradona's 23-man squad for the finals.

"Now let's recharge the batteries for the World Cup which is what we all want," the 26-year-old said.

Argentina, world champions in 1978 and 1986, will be looking for their first title in 24 years at the June 11-July 11 tournament in which they face Nigeria, South Korea and Greece in Group B.

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