Maradona moans about Russia run-out

BUENOS AIRES - Diego Maradona would prefer not to take his Argentina team to Russia for a friendly next month when he has a critical World Cup qualifier against Brazil on his mind.

Argentina meet Russia in Moscow on August 12 but Maradona said in an interview published on Monday that he does not see it as a useful warm-up for the home qualifier against Brazil on September 5.

"I don't like having to play with Russia. We must prepare the team for Brazil but in the middle we've got this match that is of no use," Maradona told the sports daily Ole.

"We've got four very tough matches but we are aiming at Brazil," Argentina's coach said of their remaining four qualifiers. They also play Paraguay away three days later and Peru at home and Uruguay in Montevideo in October.

"Brazil are the ones to bring down," said Maradona, whose team are in a precarious fourth place in the 10-nation South American group.

Brazil lead with 27 points from 14 matches, Chile are second on 26 points, Paraguay third with 24 and Argentina have 22. The top four go through to the finals in South Africa next year.

Ecuador, who beat Argentina 2-0 at home in their last qualifier in June, are fifth with 20 points, a position which if things remain that way would put them into a playoff for an extra berth against the fourth team in the CONCACAF region.

"We're going to suffer, we're going to face a (Brazil) team that plays well, that has crack players, that is winning things, who because they have played well for a long time have a bunch of World Cups," said Maradona.

"But we are Argentina, we mustn't forget that."

Maradona, who took charge last October with no significant experience or success as a coach, said: "I know that the best I can give the players is all my experience (as a footballer) and I lean on that.

"I'm sure that if they see I'm okay, they are okay and that's my strength."