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World Cup Notebook

Maradona gets win in debut

Associated Press / June 13, 2010

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Diego Maradona liked much of what he saw from his players in their World Cup opener. There was one thing he didn’t see that he’s certain Argentina will need in the tournament.

More goals.

Maradona, making his World Cup coaching debut, chided his players for wasting too many chances yesterday in their 1-0 victory against Nigeria. He said it seemed like his players “couldn’t see the goal’’ and were too forgiving as they squandered numerous opportunities.

“We should not forgive, that’s what I told them after the match,’’ a relaxed Maradona said. “In football, to forgive is to pay.’’

Maradona also praised Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who made spectacular saves against Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain to keep the Africans in the game.

“Today we took a very important step, but we have to improve many things to reach the seventh match,’’ Maradona said, referring to the tournament final. “Still, the boys did well.’’

The hero of Argentina’s 1986 world championship said everything would be fine if the missed opportunities meant Argentina was saving some goals for Thursday’s game with South Korea, which beat Greece yesterday, 2-0.

“Goals aren’t missed on purpose,’’ Maradona said. “Winning has given us a certain calm for the next match.’’

Before the game, Maradona seemed not to have a care in the world. As Ellis Park was filling up with thousands of Argentine fans, he walked around the edge of the pitch calling out to acquaintances in the stands, listened to the crowd serenading the greatest player in the nation’s history, and allowing dozens of photographers to follow him.

During the game, after switching from a warmup suit to a suit and tie, he did not seem all that different from other coaches, trying to move players into position and giving instructions to substitutes about to enter the game.

But his reaction to the final whistle from referee Wolfgang Stark was revealing. Maradona began hugging and patting the backs of his assistants, the substitutes on the bench and the players coming off the field as if Argentina had just won the final, not the first game.

Home-grown coaches?
Algeria coach Rabah Saadane hopes that more African national teams will soon start working with coaches from the continent. Africa is hosting its first World Cup, but Saadane is the only coach from the continent among the tournament’s 32 teams. He says African soccer associations should “trust more on our own skills.’’

Saadane said it’s advantageous for each team to be coached by someone “from the same cultural background and with the same mentality.’’

Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and host nation South Africa are the other African countries competing at the World Cup, but they are coached by four Europeans and a Brazilian.

Crime, punishment
A British soccer hooligan has been detained by South African police and will be deported, police said, as more burglaries of World Cup visitors were reported. A court also sentenced three thieves to a total of 34 years in prison for robbing foreign journalists.

In separate cases, a Uruguayan soccer official and journalists from New Zealand reported thefts at their hotels. The hooligan is a 42-year-old British male who allegedly has a history of inciting racially motivated violence at sporting events and was detained after flying into South Africa Friday.

The sentencings came after three journalists — two from Portugal, one from Spain — were robbed of money, camera equipment, laptops, and mobile phones last Wednesday in a town northwest of Johannesburg. One of the journalists was robbed at gunpoint.

“It took police no more than 24 hours to arrest these lunatic scoundrels,’’ South Africa minister of police Nathi Mthetwa said in a statement. “It further took the justice department no more than 48 hours to sentence them. Now this is what we have been echoing: that we will act with swiftness on any criminality.’’

Robben out of opener
Arjen Robben has been ruled out of the Netherlands’s opening game against Denmark, after flying in to join his teammates six days late because of a hamstring injury.

Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk said it was too risky for the winger to play tomorrow.

But he hopes Robben will be fit in time to face Japan in Durban next Saturday and Cameroon in Cape Town five days later. Robben sustained the injury in a warmup game against Hungary June 5.

His support is striking
Back home, Ronaldo is doing all he can to help Brazil win a sixth World Cup.

Watching the tournament on TV for the first time in his career, the former striker is hoping to cheer up the Brazilian players in South Africa. He uses his Twitter account to comment on the national team, and sends messages of support to the squad.

“My friends, 16 years ago, I felt what you are feeling now,’’ Ronaldo wrote. “It was the first of my four World Cups, and even though I was on the bench, it was a great thrill.’’

Ronaldo missed out on his fifth World Cup team after a lackluster season with Brazilian club Corinthians. He successfully recovered from the third serious injury of his career last year and was playing well enough, but a series of minor injuries recently kept him from excelling.

Ronaldo, the all-time leading scorer in World Cups with 15 goals, was one of the Brazilians who struggled four years ago when Brazil lost, 1-0, to France in the quarterfinals in Germany.

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