Maradona’s absence from the World Cup is “strange” for Argentina’s Messi
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — For the first time since the 1978 World Cup, Argentina without Diego Maradona on the biggest stage in football.
The team can use it more than ever because the South American team is off to a rocky start in the tournament.
Friday marked the second anniversary of Maradona’s death, and both Argentina and FIFA celebrated this day in Qatar.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said the date of Maradona’s death was “a very sad day for everyone”.
“We hope tomorrow we can bring some joy to Maradona if he looks at us from the sky,” Scaloni said before the team’s decisive match against Mexico on Saturday. “This is the most important thing for us. Every time we see pictures, it’s great that he’s not here with us.”
It’s already a strange World Cup for Argentina even without Maradona.
Lionel Messi He performs what is expected to be his last appearance in the World Cup, and the national team lost to Saudi Arabia, 2-1 In one of the biggest upsets of the tournament.
Maradona, the beloved soccer player in his country, “God,” has been present for Argentina at every World Cup since 1982 as a player, coach and grand statesman.
Maradona passed away at the age of 60 on November 25, 2020, a date most Argentines will never forget. He died in hospital care at his home after brain surgery, and judicial authorities continue to investigate whether there was medical negligence.
Maradona was honored before the 2022 World Cup, in Argentina and Qatar.
“Diego is immortal, he is still with us,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Friday in front of a life-size statue of Maradona unveiled at an event in Qatar organized by CONMEBOL.
“What this man did to make people fall in love with the sport, perhaps no one else has been able to do,” he said.
Infantino said that every World Cup finals would be a day dedicated to Maradona.
“Everyone knows how sincere and uniquely charismatic Diego is,” said Infantino. “He was a great leader in Argentina, South America and the whole world. We have to keep celebrating him.”
The event in Qatar was attended by many of Maradona’s former Argentine colleagues. Argentina fans plan to gather in his honor later on Friday in Doha.
In Buenos Aires, a huge mural Maradona was already shown wearing the national team shirt and clenching his right hand into a fist, a defiant expression on his face. The massive piece of art measures 148 feet high by 131 feet wide (45 meters by 40 meters) and was painted on the side of a 14-story building in the Argentine capital.
Another mural with images of Maradona was placed in Doha, kilometers (miles) away from the place that shocked Messi and Argentina from Saudi Arabia. In the team’s first match in the group stage.
Messi, who is playing in his fifth World Cup finals, told FIFA ahead of the Qatar tournament that it was “strange and different” not to see Maradona in the stands or “people go crazy when he shows up”. He said he feels Maradona will always be “out there somewhere”.
Maradona played in four World Cups from 1982 to 1994, and was coach of the national team in 2010.
Some of his best – and worst – moments came at the World Cup, from the ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in 1986 to the failed doping test that forced his expulsion from the tournament in 1994.
Maradona led Argentina to the title in 1986, when his quarter-final goal against England became one of the greatest – and most controversial – goals in the tournament’s history. In the same match, he also scored one of the best World Cup goals ever after a previous competition at Argentina.
Shortly before the start of the 2022 World Cup, the Argentine Football Association received the original shirt that Maradona wore in the 1986 tournament as a gift from the great Germany Lothar Matthaus, who exchanged his shirts with Maradona after Argentina won 3-2 at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico. city.
As coach of Argentina in 2010 in South Africa, Maradona led the national team to the quarter-finals, when it was eliminated by Germany.
One of the star’s most disturbing images at the World Cup came eight years later in Russia, when an overweight and somewhat disoriented Maradona collapsed in St. Petersburg after a 2-1 win over Nigeria, when Messi scored one of the goals. Objectives.
The 35-year-old Messi probably won’t be back for the World Cup four years from now. And if he does not find a way to lead the team this year to a good result against Mexico, then the first World Cup for Argentina without Maradona will end without Messi as well.
Associated Press writer Deborah Rey in Doha, Qatar, contributed to this report.
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