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Rediff.com  » Sports » World Cup chit-chat: Maradona to cheer Argentina from hotel after 'jinx' claim

World Cup chit-chat: Maradona to cheer Argentina from hotel after 'jinx' claim

Last updated on: June 25, 2014 19:46 IST

World Cup chit-chat: Maradona to cheer Argentina from hotel after 'jinx' claim

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Diego Maradona will root for his beloved Argentina from his hotel when they play Nigeria on Wednesday, opting to skip the stadium after the country's Football Association president suggested he had jinxed the team against Iran.

Julio Grondona said Lionel Messi's brilliant stoppage-time winner, which gave the South Americans a passage to the last 16 on Saturday, was thanks to "jinxed" Maradona leaving the stands.

The temperamental 1986 World Cup winner promptly shot back by showing Grondona the finger on live television.

Maradona struck a softer tone on Tuesday night during the "De zurda" soccer commentary program broadcast on Venezuela's Telesur and Argentine public television.

"I don't want to be a problem for the government or for those who don't want me to go. I’ll stay in the hotel watching on television," Maradona said. "I would never wish ill upon Argentina.”

Maradona still stokes passions at home, where he is revered for his phenomenal career as a player but draws fire for his checkered stint as national team coach, and foray into drugs and alcohol.

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Image: Diego Maradona
Photographs: Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

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Colombian Mondragon becomes oldest World Cup player

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Colombia reserve goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon wiped away the tears in making World Cup history on Tuesday as the oldest man to play in the finals at the age of 43.

Mondragon, whose birthday was last Saturday, broke the record held by former Cameroon striker Roger Milla, who played at the age of 42 in the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

Colombia coach Jose Pekerman sent Mondragon off the bench in the 85th minute of their third and final Group C match against Japan with the South American team having already qualified for the last 16 and leading Japan 3-1.

The Colombia-dominated crowd erupted as Mondragon ran on to the pitch with tears streaming down his face and he embraced departing keeper David Ospina warmly as he left.

"The first thing I did was to embrace (Pekerman) and give him a kiss, because for me it was like a prize," Mondragon said. "He could have made another substitution a lot earlier for another player."

Both Colombian players and fans had been badgering Pekerman over the last few days to make Mondragon's milestone happen on Tuesday. But on the eve of the match, the Argentine was reticent to do anything for sentimental reasons.

"We waited for the right time and happily today we could give him some minutes to make the goalkeeper the oldest player in the World Cup," Pekerman told a news conference.

Mondragon was in Colombia's World Cup squads in 1994 and 1998, the last time the Andean country was in the finals when he started all three games before they were eliminated at the group stage.

Jackson Martinez, who scored twice on Tuesday, said the 43-year-old is the kind of team mate who provides invaluable guidance to a young squad.

"And he is a great goalkeeper who can defend us at any time," Martinez said. 


Image: Goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon of Colombia acknowledges the fans
Photographs: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

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Italy coach Prandelli offers to resign after Cup exit

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Italy coach Cesare Prandelli offered his resignation on Tuesday after his team's elimination from the World Cup following a controversial 1-0 defeat by Uruguay.

"At the end of the match I spoke to the president of the federation, I have told them I am going to resign from my position," he told reporters.

"When there is failure, the person in charge must take responsibility," added Prandelli, who only extended his contract last month.

Federation president Giancarlo Abete, who also declared he was resigning, said he hoped to persuade Prandelli to change his mind.

Prandelli took over from Marcello Lippi as coach in 2010, after Italy were also knocked out in the first round in South Africa as defending champions.

Italy, four-times World Cup winners, leave Brazil after scoring just two goals in three matches -- their lowest tally since 1966 when they were eliminated by North Korea in a national humiliation.

The Italy players and coach blasted Mexican match referee Marco Rodriguez after the final Group D game was overshadowed by a biting controversy involving Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez after Italy's Claudio Marchisio was sent off in the 59th minute.

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Image: Head coach of Italy Cesare Prandelli
Photographs: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

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English need to shun salaries, says Hodgson

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English football would benefit if more players went abroad but the Premier League's huge salaries are a major deterrent to that, national team coach Roy Hodgson said on Tuesday.

England's humiliating early exit from the World Cup in Brazil has plunged the nation into soul-searching about why they have come up short time-and-time again in the big tournaments.

Many feel the success of the Premier League in attracting the world's best has crowded out up-and-coming English talent by leaving local players on the bench or out of the top sides.

Appearing minutes after England's last game in Brazil, a 0-0 draw with Costa Rica that gave the 'Three Lions' their only point after two other defeats, Hodgson agreed with a reporter who asked if more players should seek overseas experience.

"Absolutely. If they're not getting a chance to play with their Premier League team, and they can find a good opportunity abroad, it would be very positive," he said.

"The Premier League is a very good league but it's also a very rich league. Some of these foreign clubs perhaps can't match their salaries. I'm talking about our number 16 vis-a-vis a Spanish, Italian, German team's number 16. So our big salaries tend to keep people in the country."

Only a few of the biggest European teams, like Spain's Real Madrid or Barcelona, can match the dizzying salaries on offer at most English Premier League teams thanks to the influx of broadcasters' billions in recent years.

Another reason for England's failure, vis-a-vis the success of a supposed minnow like Costa Rica, who won Group D, is the superior time other teams have been together in terms of both pre-tournament preparation and shared experience, Hodgson said.

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Image: England manager Roy Hodgson
Photographs: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

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'We haven't been outclassed or outplayed, our performances have shown that'

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"Others have been together longer, but that doesn't answer it completely," he said, also lamenting England's lack of fortune in three games where they created plenty of chances.

"What I can say is that from our point of view, we have been a bit unfortunate. We haven't been outclassed or outplayed, our performances have shown that ... If you're Iran, and you make an incredible stand, you've had a great game. That will never happen for England. We have to dominate the game and score goals. The pressure on teams like England is much bigger."

Hodgson, who made nine changes for England's farewell match, said he was satisfied with how his youngsters had played and with the experience gained, even though some mistakes were made.

"At 18, 19, 20 years of age, we can't give them what Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard have got. We can only give them the opportunity to play and hope they get there," he said.

Despite a bitterly disappointing tournament, England's travelling fans gave the team and Hodgson a rousing farewell ovation in Belo Horizonte that clearly moved the squad.

"The reaction of the fans was brilliant. We're sad and disappointed for them. We are really grateful for that emotional moment at the end when they showed their support," Hodgson said.

"I don't think we gave at any time any impression we had nothing to play for. At the end they gave us an ovation that obviously our results did not merit. I'm still disappointed it was the final game. We wanted so much more." 

As well as sterling support, there was plenty of gallows humour from the English on show too, with fans repeatedly singing 'Always look on the bright side of life', an ironic ditty made famous in the Monty Python film 'Life of Brian'.

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Image: Daniel Sturridge of England reacts after a challenge as goalkeeper Keylor Navas of Costa Rica looks on
Photographs: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

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