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Life President
May 29, 2005
National hero, cheating midget, the worlds greatest, bloated drug addict, national coach, and now, the man responsible for almost failing to qualify Argentina for next years World Cup. No, this isn't the Newcastle team sheet for next weekend, this is the rap sheet for Diego Maradona.

Going into last nights showdown with the old foe Brazil, Argentina were teetering on the edge of the automatic qualification zone, unthinkable for a team holding the likes of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and Kun Aguero in their arsenal. Brazil, on the other hand, were very much benefiting from the guidance of a former star. Dunga had led the team to the brink of qualification, and a win at the El Monumental would secure their seat on the plane to South Africa with three games to spare.

Argentina started quickly and positively, Lionel Messi breaking down the left flank in trademark fashion before firing a shot narrowly wide of the target. Carlos Tevez was being his usual nuisance around the 18 yard box and Maxi Rodriguez continued to cause problems on the right hand side. As much depth and mercurial talent they have surging forward, it becomes clear just why Argentina find themselves in the predicament they do when Brazil counter. They looked lost in a sea of yellow as Kaka prodded and probed at the Argentina back line, and Luisao nodded Brazil ahead in the 24th minute.

Kaka floated a ball over the top that Luisao pounced on to head home, but the truth is he was left with so much space by some criminal defending that he had the time to chest it down, have a little samba, and then pass it into the net before any Argentinian would get near him. A side of Argentina's calibre must be capable of better than this, but when you notice that Fabricio Collocini, of Newcastle fame and shame, is part of the defensive ranks you start to realise how they find themselves in this position.

Minutes later Brazil had doubled the deficit after Luis Fabiano pounced on the Argie 'keeper Andujar palmed away a Maicon effort, and the hosts went in at half time staring down the barrel of a devastating loss.

To Maradona's credit, Argentina did look to rouse themselves after the break and Andujar was in fine form to keep them in the game until Jesus Datolo, the Napoli midfielder, beat Julio Cesar with a 30 yard drive to give the hosts a chance. The indictment of a side of true quality is how they respond to set backs, and Brazil killed any Argentinian impetus minutes later, as Fabiano netted his second of the night latching onto Kaka's pass.

The Brazilians celebrated Argentina's first home World Cup defeat since 1993 wildly, they'd booked their trip to South Africa early and are left to watch their enemy toil for their right to join them. For once though, Brazilian and Argentinian fans were in harmony as to who the real enemy of the evening was. "Maradona: National Hero and Traitor" read the banner amongst the crowd, relating to the portly one's omission of Juan Roman Riquelme from the squad... a move which many Argies attributed to the loss.

Whilst they were dealt a favour by Columbia beating Ecuador 2-0, they now face a tough task on Wednesday by travelling to second placed Paraguay, knowing that their remaining games are now vital. He's been a national hero and villain many times in the past, it remains to be seen what the yo-yo career of Diego Maradona has in store for him in a months time.