Maradona wishing he could face Brazil

BUENOS AIRES - Argentina coach Diego Maradona would give anything to be able to play in Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Brazil, he said on Tuesday.

Argentina have been beset by injury worries before the game in Rosario, prompting Maradona to add 30-year-old midfielder Rodrigo Brana, 35-year-old striker Martin Palermo and 36-year-old defender Rolando Schiavi to his squad.

Schiavi and Brana are both uncapped and Palermo has not been called up for nearly nine years.

"Yesterday, when I met up with the players, I said that I'd give anything to be 20 years younger and be able to play myself," Maradona told Radio Del Plata.

"But after all these problems we have to move forward. The ones who can't play will just have to wait for the next game and the ones who can will have to be decisive on the field."

"The truth is that it's been terrible. With each phone call from (team doctor Donato) Villani, I was praying. This one's been hurt, that one's pulled a muscle....."

Strikers Diego Milito and Lisandro Lopez, defender Nicolas Burdisso and midfielders Juan Veron, Jonas Gutierrez and Sebastian Battaglia are all doubtful for Saturday's clash with arch-rivals Brazil in Rosario.

Gutierrez's injury has dashed Maradona's plans for stopping the powerful bursts of Brazil right back Maicon.

"We've lost the best hope we had of stopping Maicon, which was Jonas," said Maradona. "In addition to marking, he can attack from behind, which is what worries him. We don't know which alternative to try."

Maradona's team are precariously placed in fourth place in the 10-team South American qualifying group with 22 points, two ahead of fifth-placed Ecuador, and four matches each to play.

The top four teams qualify directly for South Africa but the fifth team must playoff over two legs against the fourth-placed side from CONCACAF.

Argentina, who last failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1970, visit Paraguay four days after the Brazil game.