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World Cup notebook

Maradona counter attacks after taking hits

Associated Press / June 17, 2010

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Diego Maradona made stinging comments about fellow soccer greats Pele and Michel Platini yesterday after the pair criticized Maradona’s performance as Argentina coach.

Maradona said he was not surprised by their comments and that “Pele has to go back to the museum.’’

As for Platini, “I always had a very distant relationship with him — hello and goodbye. We know how the French are and Platini is French and he thinks of himself as being more than the rest of the world. I’ve never paid him any attention and I won’t do it now.’’

Earlier, Maradona had criticized Pele, who led Brazil to three World Cup titles, for doubting Africa’s ability to organize a World Cup.

Asked about Brazil, Maradona said Argentina’s fierce South American rival was not tested by North Korea in the 2-1 win Tuesday.

“Brazil played a relaxed game, too relaxed,’’ Maradona said. “Korea never challenged them. For [goalkeeper] Julio Cesar, it would have been the same to shower or not after the game.

“Brazil is Brazil . . . and Dunga has done a good job. When more will be demanded of them, they will play better for sure.’’

No deal on security
With a labor dispute in stalemate, the South African police said they will handle security at four major stadiums for the rest of the World Cup.

Because of a strike by privately hired security stewards over wages, police had already taken over their duties on an interim basis. The new announcement made clear that authorities no longer expect a settlement, and the police takeover will last through the final on July 11.

The decision affects two Johannesburg stadiums — Soccer City and Ellis Park — and stadiums at Durban and Cape Town. Even before the labor dispute, police had been handling most security duties at a fifth stadium in Port Elizabeth.

Five other stadiums have not been affected by the protest.

The protests began Sunday night when police used tear gas and fired rubber bullets to disperse stewards in Durban who were angry about their wages and refused to leave Moses Mabhida Stadium.

The dispute spread to Johannesburg Tuesday.

Deco wasn’t artful
Portugal midfielder Deco issued a public statement denying any friction with coach Carlos Queiroz.

Deco was critical of Queiroz’s tactics and substitutions after Portugal’s 0-0 draw with Ivory Coast in Group G Tuesday, saying they were “strange’’ and “not as good as they might have been.’’

In a statement posted on the Portuguese Football Federation’s website yesterday, however, Deco distanced himself from those views. He says he expressed his opinions “in the heat of the moment’’ and had not intended to question Queiroz’s leadership.

Queiroz shifted Deco to the right side of midfield in the second half of the game in Port Elizabeth, even though he usually plays in the center of the pitch. As Portugal struggled to break through against its African opponent, Queiroz replaced Deco with Tiago in the 62d.

Goalie Buffon ailing
Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has a herniated disk, putting the rest of his World Cup at risk.

Team physician Enrico Castellacci said the recovery period would “not be brief,’’ adding it was impossible to set a specific return date. Buffon exited after the first half of Italy’s 1-1 draw with Paraguay Monday and was replaced by Federico Marchetti. The defending champions face New Zealand Sunday, then round out Group F play against Slovakia four days later.

“Clearly he can’t play Sunday,’’ Castellacci said. When Italy won the 2006 World Cup, Buffon was beaten only once in open play over seven matches, an own goal by Cristian Zaccardo against the United States.

He also conceded a goal to Paraguay following a free kick — but wasn’t to blame — in Italy’s opener at this tournament. Marchetti has had two solid seasons with small Serie A club Cagliari, but was playing in Serie B with Albinoleffe as recently as 2008.

Barry back in action
England midfielder Gareth Barry will return from a six-week injury layoff and play against Algeria tomorrow in the team’s second World Cup match. The central midfielder has been sidelined since May 5 when he damaged ligaments in his right ankle while playing for Manchester City. Returning Barry to the holding role which worked so successfully in World Cup qualifying would free up Steven Gerrard to take a more attacking spot on the left flank. Coach Fabio Capello said he has not decided whether Robert Green will start in goal against Algeria. Green’s blunder Saturday gave the Americans’ Clint Dempsey a goal in a 1-1 draw . . . FIFA turned down a request from France to replace injured goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso. Carrasso tore his left hamstring in training Monday, and the French Football Federation hoped to replace him by asking FIFA for special consideration. He’ll miss the rest of the tournament.

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