Maradona hoping to break 24-year curse

PRETORIA - Argentina have both the hope and desire that they can break a 24-year-old curse by lifting the World Cup in South Africa this year, coach Diego Maradona said on Monday.

Maradona, who completed a two-month FIFA ban on Friday for making lewd comments to reporters in Montevideo after Argentina qualified for the tournament, inspired his country to the World Cup at the 1986 Mexico tournament.

They have not won the tournament since, losing to West Germany in the 1990 final.

"We hope to get as far as possible. We know we are not the favourites but we have a great desire," Maradona told reporters during an inspection of his team's base at the University of Pretoria.

"We want to break the curse after 24 years that we have not been given (the World Cup). The desire never goes away. The hope never goes away."

Maradona declined to speak about the ban, saying that he did not want to attract more attention to himself.

Surrounded by a large media contingent and a strong police presence, he said he was happy with the facilities and confident about a safe World Cup.

"We are very confident, we don't have anything to complain about," he said.

Maradona also met Pretoria University football players, handing them Argentina caps and offering coaching tips.

On Thursday he will inspect Soccer City, the Johannesburg stadium that will host the opening and final game of the tournament.