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Oct 15, 2009

Maradona turns on critics after Argentina qualify

Diego Maradona wasted no time in rounding on his critics after Argentina booked their place at the World Cup finals.

• Uruguay 0-1 Argentina

Maradona had faced a crucial qualifying double header against Peru and Uruguay to avoid the shame of Argentina failing to make the finals for the first time in 40 years. But Maradona picked up late victories in both games to give the final table a comfortable look, even if in truth it was far from being that.

A stuttering performance from Uruguay, who would have automatically gone to South Africa had they won in Centenario, meant Argentina never looked in real danger though there always remained the chance that the hosts might sneak a goal.

Mario Ariel Bolatti's goal in the 84th minute calmed Argentina's nerves, though Maradona's apparent inflated opinion of a Uruguay side which may well struggle to get past Costa Rica in the intercontinental play-off is sure to raise eyebrows again.

"For those who didn't believe in this national team, for those who treated me like garbage (I say) today we are in the World Cup with all the honours, beating a team like Uruguay," Maradona said. "I am black or white, I'll never be grey in my life."

He felt the media had made up stories about a rift between himself and the coaching staff. But it's difficult to be convinced that all is sweetness and light behind the scenes.

"They (the press) invented that I was fighting with Bilardo," he insisted. "They gave wrong information. If you want to exchange information, to give it before you know the facts, the problem is yours.''

Maradona has used an astonishing 78 players in his short time in charge, which points to a severe case of indecision and a penchant for tinkering.

He did find time to praise the 2,000 Argentina fans there to see their country seal qualification: "I want to thank the whole squad for having given me the privilege of taking Argentina to the World Cup and the people... who crossed the pond.

"I would like to thank the team for giving me the privilege to lead Argentina to World Cup. Thank you to the Argentinian people who had faith.

"Thanks to the players who managed to stand firm and take this group forward. I have a good memory and now I am going to remember more than ever. This is for those who did not believe in the national team and treated me like dirt - they will now have to accept this.

"I want to thank the players and fans - no-one but them.''

Meanwhile, Lionel Messi has acknowledged he was not at his best for Diego Maradona's side in their World Cup qualifiers against Peru and Uruguay.

"I know that things did not go as well for me as I would have wished," Messi told reporters on his arrival back in Barcelona. "Many things have to change, we have to continue improving, growing as a team and prepare well for the World Cup," he added. "If we do things well we have a good chance because (we have) some very good players."

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