Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has called on his players to honor the memory of Diego Maradona by getting their World Cup match against Mexico back on track.
On the second anniversary of the death of the nation’s footballing hero, Scaloni invoked the spirit of the man who captained his country to success in 1986 as they try to recover from their sensational defeat to Saudi Arabia.
Anything other than a win would leave the South Americans’ hopes of exiting Group C hanging in the balance.
“Today is a very sad day for everyone,” Scaloni said at a press conference.
“Tomorrow we hope to bring some joy to Maradona, who will watch us from heaven. It will be the most important thing for us.
“Every time we see pictures of him it’s amazing he’s not here with us. I hope tomorrow is a happy day for all of us.”
While the 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia, having been in front, came as a big surprise and put Argentina’s tournament at risk, Scaloni insists they put the result behind them.
And he’s confident his players will produce a response after promising they’ll “break their backs” to turn things around.
“Emotionally we had to digest (the result) and, when you have one shot, two shots, what you have to do is recover and this group is ready to get up and recover,” added Scaloni.
“We may take a hit like in the opening game, but we know we have to stick to our guns. We have a style that is non-negotiable.
“We’ll always break our backs until the last second we’ll be on the pitch to be able to reverse this initial situation. This is non-negotiable.
Mexico manager Gerardo Martino was born in Rosario – the hometown of Lionel Messi – 180 miles from Buenos Aires, and was a former teammate of Maradona at Newell’s Old Boys.
However, he insists he has no divided loyalties as he prepares to take on his native country.
“If you were in my place what would you do? Mexico has to win, let’s hope Mexico wins,” she said.
“I can tell you the place, the characteristics of my city, the hospital where I was born, but I work for Mexico and I want to win the game.
“What happens in football I leave it in the context of football. I am aware of the importance of the match for both Mexico and Argentina, but I have to do my best for Mexico to win. It’s the only thing I can do.”
After the first draw against Poland, a point against Argentina would not be fatal for Mexico, especially with Saudi Arabia, the presumed minnow of the group, still to play.
But Martino insists they cannot go into the game with that mentality.
“It’s very difficult to see it from that point of view,” he added.
“Sometimes you’re not worthy of winning and you end up drawing and that’s a good result, but sometimes you deserve more and you don’t win.
“I think we could have had a better result against Poland, so we have to analyze things beyond the result.”
Martino coached Messi briefly at Barcelona and admits he may have just had a day off in the first game.
“We have to think that Messi will show his best version. Sometimes, even without being on top for 90 minutes in five minutes, anything can happen.