Maradona in need of help from God

BUENOS AIRES - Argentina coach Diego Maradona has called on God's hand to shield the South American country from World Cup elimination.

"The Beard (God) saved me many times, I hope he saves me this time too," said Maradona, whose notorious 'Hand of God' goal during Argentina's 1986 quarter-final against England is one of the most talked about at a World Cup.

Argentina are fifth in the South American group, in the berth for a playoff against the team finishing fourth in the CONCACAF region. The top four go through automatically.

They face Peru and Uruguay in their final qualifiers next month, looking to at least remain where they are as they try to avoid missing the finals for the first time since 1970.

"We have to get it into our heads that these two matches are fundamental, that we can no longer go on giving things away like we did against Brazil," Maradona told the local Cadena 3 broadcaster in an interview.

Argentina lost 3-1 at home to Brazil and 1-0 away to Paraguay earlier this month.

Maradona, who as captain led Argentina to victory in the 1986 tournament in Mexico, has often said God saved him when he put his life in danger over his drug and alcohol addictions.