A broken Diego Maradona, his demeanour far removed from the exuberance of his previous World Cup news conferences, said Argentina’s 4-0 thrashing by Germany on Saturday was the hardest day of his life.
‘Today, close to the 50 years I will be on October 30, this is the hardest thing I’ve experienced,’ Maradona said.
‘This was (like) a punch from Muhammad Ali. I have no strength for anything.
‘The day I quit playing football could (have been) similar but this is much harder,’ Maradona said after Argentina’s worst defeat at the finals since a 6-1 rout by Czechoslovakia in 1958.
Maradona said he could not talk so soon about the future after his team again failed to reach the last four. They have not done so since 1990, the year he reliquished the World Cup in the final in Italy having lifted it four years earlier as captain.
‘I’ll have to think carefully about (the future)… I must speak to my family, the players, there’s a lot (to discuss),’ Maradona said.
With a hint that the future was uncertain, he said: ‘This wasn’t the expected finale (for us), but whoever comes in must carry on this path which is the one Argentines like.
‘I thanked (the players and coaching staff) for the job they did, that’s all. I didn’t speak about the future,’ Maradona said, having emerged from a gloomy changing room.
He said he had no doubts that his team had played as they should have, despite often being given the run-around by a far sharper and quicker German side.
‘I could go tomorrow, but I want these kids to go on showing the real Argentine football,’ he said.
‘I have realised as coach and player that the football the (Argentine) people like is this, searching permanently (for goals), playing, rotating. I don’t think Argentina have another style.
‘With the (early) lead, Germany began to get ideas that they had not had previously in this World Cup,’ Maradona said.
‘This (loss) doesn’t knock my pride in my players because I know the result is not a reflection of what happened on the pitch. They put in their chances, we also had some.’
Maradona defended World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, who was brilliant in flashes throughout the finals but failed to stamp his authority on the tournament or even find the net.
‘(Messi) had a great World Cup … (he didn’t score) because the ball lifted or goalkeepers were their teams’ stars.
‘To see Messi weeping in the changing room, anyone who says to me he has no feelings for the (Argentina) shirt is stupid.’
Germany ended Argentina’s run of 10 matches unbeaten at the World Cup dating back to their 1-0 loss to England in Japan in 2002 and including the 1-1 draw with Germany in the 2006 quarter-final which they lost on penalties.
Maradona, who took charge in late 2008, has won 18 and lost six of his matches as coach though the majority of the defeats came in a disappointing qualifying campaign last year.
(Reuters . Cape Town)