Argentina’s footballers are determined to bring back joy to the nation after a day of mourning the second anniversary of Diego Maradona’s death, coach Lionel Scaloni said on Friday.
Ex-players and fans at the World Cup in Qatar paid tribute to Maradona to mark the 1986 World Cup winner’s death from a heart attack in 2020 at the age of 60.
And after their shock 2-1 defeat to minnows Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, Argentina’s players and coach have vowed to turn things around against Mexico on Saturday to keep alive their dream of lifting the World Cup for the third time.
“It’s a very sad day for everyone. If he is watching us from heaven then tomorrow we hope to bring him joy,” said Scaloni.
“It seems incredible that he is no longer here. It’s a day for all Argentines but we hope that tomorrow will be a happy day.”
Maradona inspired Argentina to their last World Cup victory in 36 years, when he was widely regarded as the best player of his generation.
“We keep him in mind, for us Argentines he was a very important person in world football, not just for us Argentines,” said Inter Milan forward Lautaro Martinez.
“We remember him in the best way. Today is a sad day for everyone and hopefully tomorrow we can give happiness.”
Argentina arrived in Doha on a 36-match unbeaten run and as one of the overall favourites to lift the trophy.
But after they slipped up against the Saudis, defeat to Mexico would see them eliminated from the tournament.
The players know they cannot afford a repeat of their opening match.
“It was difficult but we’re a united group, a strong group that knows what we want, we know about our opponents, we’ve already overcome many things,” said Martinez, who twice had a goal ruled out for offside against the Saudis.
Asked about whether going out in the group stages would be the biggest catastrophe in Argentine football history, Martinez insisted the thought had never crossed anyone’s mind in the squad.
“We haven’t spoken about that. There’s no pressure. We trust in our work, in what we’re doing, in every one of us. We’re very calm,” he said.
Mexico winger Hirving Lozano said his side would take heart from Argentina’s shock defeat.
“The Saudi result against Argentina was very surprising, although I think it was more due to the way Saudi Arabia played, they played very well,” he said.
“It’s very motivating but like all matches we respect our opponents, we will try to go about it in the best way possible against Argentina.”
While the focus will largely be on Argentina’s last chance saloon, Mexico’s Argentine coach Gerardo Martino said it was also a crucial match for his side, who drew 0-0 with Poland in their first game.
“The necessities are not so different, we also need a result tomorrow, it’s key for both teams,” said Martino.
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