Maradona gets one over on England again

June 13, 2010

SOCCER-WORLD/Argentina and England have one of the great soccer rivalries and although they were not playing each other on Saturday Argentina still managed to score a psychological victory over their old foes.

Diego Maradona, whose “Hand of God” goal and wonderful slalom against England in 1986 are among the most iconic images of any World Cup, emerged the undoubted victor with his astonishing touchline sideshow compared to England coach Fabio Capello’s unhappy performance.

Both teams are tipped to do well at these finals, and both started the tournament with difficult matches against tough but beatable opponents.

Both got off to excellent starts — Argentina scoring through Gabriel Heinze after six minutes of their Group B match against Nigeria and England scoring after four minutes of their Group C game against the United States with skipper Steven Gerrard firing home.

But whereas Argentina held on for a well-deserved 1-0 victory, England lost their way after conceding an equaliser following a terrible mistake from goalkeeper Robert Green, never recovered and were held to a 1-1 draw.

Irrespective of the brilliance of Lionel Messi’s performance for Argentina and the nightmare Green endured with his howler, there was another important element involved in the different outcomes for the two teams — the body language and demeanour of the two coaches, whose sides could meet in the quarter-finals.

Argentina were inspired by the passionate, energetic and at times over the top enthusiasm of Maradona, their World Cup-winning skipper in 1986.

The old Bull of the Pampas, looking more like an avant-garde film director with his dark moustache and grey beard, evoked memories of his great playing days with a coaching sideshow that clearly galvanised his team.

In contrast, Capello, not averse to a Latin eruption of his own, looked ill at ease all night — hardly raised a smile when England scored and most shots of him on TV were of him scowling and looking furious with his team … even when they were playing reasonably well at times.

Football is as much about what goes on in the heads of coaches and players as what happens with the ball at their feet — and mentally England appeared ill-equipped for the battles ahead whereas Maradona’s Argentina looked fired up and ready.

Early days perhaps but with another potential World Cup meeting just a couple of weeks away, Capello could do with a little bit of Maradona’s exhuberant enthusiasm.

England have suffered for years through a lack of self-belief at the World Cup. Clearly, Maradona does not have the same problem.

PHOTO: England’s David Beckham (C) and coach Fabio Capello (R) react during their 2010 World Cup Group C soccer match against the US at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 12, 2010. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

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