BUENOS AIRES - Argentina coach Diego Maradona is trying to stop his players from getting carried away by the euphoric atmosphere surrounding Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Venezuela. The former World Cup winning captain remains an idol in his homeland and the 48-year-old Maradona will make his home and competitive debut as coach at River Plate's Monumental stadium amid huge expectations. Friendly wins over Scotland and France in Maradona's first two games have restored public enthusiasm for the team, which had waned after some lacklustre displays under predecessor Alfio Basile. The possibility of seeing Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez together in a three-pronged attack has added to the excitement. "The public have great expectations, but if we want to make them happy we have to play well and win the game," Maradona told reporters. "You don't win with euphoria, you win by playing well, keeping possession and scoring goals." The 1986 World Cup winner said he was prepared to take a back seat and let his players grab the spotlight. "The way the public receive me is secondary," he told a news conference. "The most important thing is the way they receive the players." Asked if he was savouring the moment, Maradona added: "I'm thinking about the team I'm going to field. I'm thinking about how we are going to beat Venezuela. "I want the players to be applauded off the field. I want Messi to be applauded off River's field the way I was on some occasions." Argentina go in to Saturday's match third in the 10-team South American group, seven points behind leaders Paraguay. "Venezuela have grown in stature but we must make history count, we can't allow Venezuela to attack us."
27 March 2009
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