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 April 27, 2002 | 1123 IST

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Paraguay's Chilavert apologises to coach Maldini

Paraguay's outspoken goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert has asked his compatriots to stop criticising coach Cesare Maldini after the veteran Italian was jeered at Asuncion airport on his return to the country.

The volatile Chilavert also apologised to Maldini -- who is accused of being overpaid and spending too little time in the South American nation -- for the way he has been treated.

"All I'm asking is to let us work in peace," said Chilavert in an interview with Nanduti radio on Friday from France, where he plays for Racing Strasbourg.

"If things go wrong at the World Cup, at the moment of truth, then they can feel free to criticise us and say what they want.

"I publicly apologise to Mr. Maldini for the way people have reacted," he said.

Seventy-year-old Maldini, who led his own country at France '98, was appointed in December to take Paraguay to the World Cup in South Korea and Japan next month, but has had a torrid time.

Maldini's problems began when he was first accused by a group representing local coaches of breaking immigration laws by signing his contract without a tourist visa.

In the last week, he has been subject to a wave of criticism following the 4-0 defeat by England in a friendly international and was booed by a group of around 100 people on his return to the country on Thursday.

Paraguay had drawn their previous two matches under him against Bolivia and Nigeria.


"When you lose, pessimism exists, but people should remember that we are at a disadvantage when we travel to Europe from South America. We had players who arrived hours before the game and played. They got tired after two or three spurts," Chilavert said.

"If we want to deceive people, we could play against smaller teams and win 5-0 or 6-0," he said. "Instead, we are playing against teams challenging for the title to see where our errors lie."

Maldini replaced Uruguayan Sergio Markarian, who was surprisingly fired despite leading Paraguay through the World Cup qualifiers.

Markarian was extremely popular with the players and had worked with some of them for the best part of a decade.

Paraguay's next friendly is against Sweden on May 17. They have been drawn in group B for the first stage of the World Cup, against Spain, Slovenia and South Africa.

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