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October 16, 2009

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Maradona turns on critics after Argentina qualifies

DIEGO Maradona hit out at critics of his coaching after his Argentina team qualified for the World Cup on Wednesday and said he had issues to discuss with his boss.

"For those who didn't believe in this national team, for those who treated me like garbage (I say) today we are in the World Cup with all the honors, beating a team like Uruguay," Maradona said.

Argentina secured its berth at the 2010 finals in South Africa with a 1-0 away win over arch-rivals Uruguay at the Centenario, scene of the first World Cup final in 1930.

"I am black or white, I'll never be grey in my life," Maradona, who in Argentine eyes could no wrong as a player, told reporters as he criticized the media for inventing stories about differences within the national team.

Maradona has been under fire for most of the qualifying matches since he took charge a year ago, for inconsistencies in selection and tactical errors that left Argentina on the brink of failing to qualify.

He lost four matches and won four, including the last two against Peru and Uruguay that left Argentina in the last of South America's four automatic qualifying berths behind Brazil, Paraguay and Chile.

Fifth-placed Uruguay plays next month against Costa Rica for another place.

A week ago, Maradona gave the impression there were divisions in the national team staff, suggesting to reporters in Buenos Aires that preparations to face Peru on Saturday had not run smoothly. He said he would only stay on for the finals on his terms, but a few days later accused the media of inventing his possible resignation.

On Wednesday, he allowed a similar doubt to fill the air when, in answer to a question about whether he would be in charge of Argentina in South Africa, Maradona would only say: "I need to talk to (Argentine Football Association president Julio) Grondona."

He reserved his praise for his players and the small group of fans, less than 2,000, who crossed the River Plate from Buenos Aires to support the team in a stadium packed with close to 60,000 Uruguayans baying for Argentine blood.

"I want to thank the whole squad for having given me the privilege of taking Argentina to the World Cup and the people... who crossed the pond."

Midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron was more measured.

"This isn't a celebration, it's a case of getting things off our chest," he said. "We have to think about improving."

Nearly all the action happened in the last 10 minutes, starting with a red card for Uruguay defender Martin Caceres after for a second bookable offence.

Veron then lobbed the ball into the penalty area and it fell for Bolatti to score from near the penalty spot.

Ecuador was the other team which went into Wednesday's match with a realistic chance of qualifying but its hopes were killed off with a 0-1 defeat in Chile.

Humberto Suazo, the competition's leading scorer, scored the winner with his 10th goal of the campaign to leave Ecuador sixth with 23 points, one behind Uruguay.

Brazil finished top of the group with 34 points but completed its campaign with a lackluster goalless draw at home to Venezuela in Campo Grande. Paraguay (33 points) missed a chance to pip Brazil when it lost 0-2 at home to Colombia.


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