Maradona and Greece: From drugs nightmare to World Cup dream (Feature)
By Jens Marx Jun 20, 2010, 15:43 GMT
Pretoria - Diego Maradona revisits the past again on Tuesday when his Argentina side face Greece in Polokwane in their final Group B match.
In 1994 Maradona scored the last of his eight World Cup goals against Greece, converting with his famous left foot after Claudio Caniggia and Fernando Redondo had exchanged passes.
The run to the camera and the shout of joy still resounds and if he could, the 49-year-old coach who still loves nothing more than to exercise his famous left foot in shooting practice with his goalkeepers, would put his own name on the team-sheet to face the Greeks on Tuesday.
'He is a coach who is constantly on top of us. He knows what is happening all the time and he fills us with confidence,' said Lionel Messi. 'He is a phenomenon' added Carlos Tevez.
Four years ago Maradona's impact was already being felt when he visited the team's Germany World Cup headquarters in Herzogenaurach. 'He is our idol and an idol for the people,' said Tevez. 'He makes us laugh and when he has gone he always leaves us feeling stronger than we actually are.'
As a coach Maradona does no work alone, as he did when he scored the goal of the last century against England in the Mexico World Cup in 1986. He consults his players and his assistant coaches Alejandro Mancuso and Hector Enrique who gave him the ball 24 years ago to score that glorious individual goal.
'Diego is unique. He is open and he consults and listens but he always has the last word,' said Enrique. 'Diego always says: 'you are all important'.'
After beating Nigeria and South Korea, Argentina want to beat the Greeks as convincingly as in 1994 when a hat-trick from Gabriel Batistuta and a goal from Maradona gave them a 4-0 win.
That game brings back bad memories because after it, came the failed doping test and the 15-month ban that ended Maradona's international playing career.
This time victory could be the springboard to much greater things - taking Diego into the round of the last-16 and moving his Argentina team one step closer to glory in South Africa.