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Maradona: all guns blazing

2010-06-10 08:09
Argentina's coach Diego Maradona gestures as he leaves the field at the end of a practice session in Pretoria. (AP)
Pretoria - Diego Maradona seems settled on making a shock impact early in Argentina's campaign by starting strikers Carlos Tevez, Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain for the team's World Cup opener against Nigeria on Saturday.

Most reporters were barred from watching Wednesday's two practice matches, but team officials said Higuain and Javier Mascherano scored in a 2-0 victory against Argentina's backups. In another match, the second-stringers defeated a youth team 1-0, with Sergio Aguero scoring.

Argentina is the favorite to win Group B, which also includes Greece and South Korea.

Maradona is widely expected to start the following team: Sergio Romero in goal behind defenders Gabriel Heinze, Martin Demichelis and Walter Samuel. The midfield will be Jonas Gutierrez, Angel Di Maria, Mascherano and Juan Sebastian Veron. They will be joined by the three strikers.

Heinze said it's a united Argentina with none of the confusion and bickering that existed during qualifying, when the mercurial Maradona used 107 players trying to find a starting 11.

"We're all really good without any problems and fired up to get on the field," said Heinze. "We've been practicing at a very good level, and you'll see it on Saturday."

Heinze cautioned against overconfidence while facing a quick Nigerian team.

"Nigeria puts on lots of pressure, it's aggressive with players who have pace," he said. "We know many of them from playing them in European clubs."

The two-time World Cup champions overwhelmed Canada 5-0 in the last friendly, a send off on May 24 in Buenos Aires. After that victory, Maradona promised to run naked around the famed Obelisk in downtown Buenos Aires if Argentina wins its third World Cup title.

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