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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Just days before Argentina and Brazil meet in what the sporting press has dubbed “the Battle of Rosario,” Argentina’s manager, Diego Maradona, admitted that his team’s chances of making it to the South Africa 2010 World Cup hang on the result of this match. Round 14 of the South American qualifying matches will be played on Sept. 5. At the end of the qualifiers, the top four teams will go on to compete in the finals.
“Neither team in this match is superior, the two of us will go head to head. It’s a [South American] classic comparable to a Champions’ League final or the European Cup. Neither of us will give an inch to the other,” said Maradona to Clarín. He also praised Brazilian star Kaká, according to La Nación, saying that he would like to have Kaká, as he can tip the balance, and if it were the other way round, I’m sure they would like to have Lionel Messi.”
Maradona told the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, fifa.com, that in his “humble opinion, Brazil has the world’s best goalkeeper in Julio Cesar.” On a more personal note, Maradona played down the importance of a FIFA poll in which he was voted the world’s best player, ahead of Brazil’s Pelé.
Having lost to Ecuador 2-0, Argentina is fourth in the regional qualifying table with 22 points, just two points ahead of Ecuador in fifth place.
Brazil, on the other hand, is at the top of the table with 27 points, followed by Chile, with 26 and Paraguay, with 24.
The Brazilian team recently won the Confederations Cup. “They are laid-back, Maradona told fifa.com, We are hungrier for glory.
The Brazilians have also been talking about the upcoming match. Striker Luis Fabiano told ANSA that “the Argentinians are worried. Otherwise, Maradona wouldn’t be talking so much. The result is far more important to them.”
Several members of Maradona’s team, including Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and Sergio “Kun” Agüero, who play in Europe, have been called to participate in Saturday's match. In an attempt to boost national confidence, Maradona told Clarín that “a World Cup without Argentina would not be a World Cup, it would be boring. I’m convinced that we are going to qualify.”
Saturday's match will be played at Rosario Central stadium before thousands of anxious spectators.