Maradona looking for divine guidance

Updated: September 30, 2009, 1:10 PM ET
Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Diego Maradona is looking for divine help to boost Argentina's chances of qualifying for next year's World Cup in South Africa.

In a radio interview on Cadena 3 before Wednesday's exhibition with Ghana, Argentina's coach said his team might need some extra help.

"The big man upstairs has saved me many times," said Maradona, the 48-year-old former Argentina captain. "I hope he'll save me again this time."

Argentina, two-time winners of the World Cup, is on the verge of missing out on soccer's biggest showpiece for the first time since 1970.

Going into the final round of qualifying games in South America, Argentina is fifth in the standings. The top four teams automatically qualify. The fifth-placed team gets a playoff in November with the fourth-placed side from North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Argentina plays Peru at home on Oct. 10 and then travels to Uruguay on Oct. 14. It must win both matches, but even that might not be enough to get an automatic berth. Anything less, and Argentina may even be eliminated.

Brazil and Paraguay have claimed two of the four automatic places. Chile has 27 points and Ecuador 23. Argentina has 22 followed by Uruguay and Venezuela, who both have 21.

If Argentina misses out it will be a huge blow to national pride. It will also be bad news for South African organizers who would lament the absence of some of soccer's biggest stars, including Barcelona striker Lionel Messi and Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez.

"French, Italians and Germans have told me that a World Cup without Argentina would not be the same," Maradona said. "I've told them: 'Relax, Argentina will be in the World Cup."

This is not the first time Maradona has looked for extra help for his struggling team.

He was ridiculed in some circles for taking players to a Roman Catholic mass before the Brazil match in early September -- a 3-1 loss. He was also widely reported to have been relying on some form of witchcraft before the Paraguay game in early September -- another loss.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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