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September 17, 2009

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Maradona checks into clinic as pressure to qualify grows

ARGENTINA coach Diego Maradona has checked into a clinic in northern Italy in a bid to lose weight, his personal doctor said on Tuesday.

"Maradona travelled to Italy to check into a spa he knows where he will do a diet to lose five kilos," his personal doctor Alfredo Cahe was quoted as saying in Buenos Aires.

"He is fine, a lot better than many people think, he is serene," Cahe told the Argentine news agency Telam.

Italian media said Maradona, whose team is in danger of missing out on next year's World Cup after recent defeats by Brazil and Paraguay, had checked into The Henri Chenot clinic in Merano. The clinic could not be reached for comment.

Maradona, 48, has fought a long battle with weight problems and Italian media reports noted he had used Chenot's services to get fit while playing for Napoli 20 years ago.

Last Wednesday's 0-1 loss to Paraguay left Argentina fifth in the 10-nation South American group, which would mean a playoff with CONCACAF's fourth-placed nation to reach the World Cup finals.

The twice World Cup winners still have a chance to sneak into the top four and secure automatic qualification but could also slip out of the picture altogether with two games left.

Veron fears

Meanwhile, Argentina's most senior player, midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron, acknowledged the South Americans may miss their first World Cup since 1970.

"It could happen," Veron said. "Anything could happen. The situation is not the best. It all depends on us."

Veron is the first player to openly acknowledge the shortcomings of Maradona and top Europe-based players like Lionel Messi.

"There are great players, but the coach has not gotten us to play like a team," Veron said.

Veron explained why Messi, ranked by many as the top player in the world, excels with his club Barcelona but has done little with Argentina.

"Barcelona plays its style," he said. "It has players that pass quickly, that move quickly. On the national team, we wait for Lio (Messi) to beat five players by himself and score a goal. The important thing today is to look critically at our ourselves, which includes players as much as the coaching staff. I hold hope we will still make it."


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