England set to get Maradona grudge match
TWENTY-FOUR years ago he dumped England out of the World Cup as a player; now he could be set to inflict the same heartbreak as a manager.
For if Fabio Capello’s team can navigate their way past old rivals Germany and into the quarter-finals, they look likely to meet the familiar form of Diego Maradona.
Argentina meet Mexico in the last 16, with the victors drawn to meet the winners of England’s tie, and Maradona’s men are the hot favourites to progress.
Indeed, they are highly fancied full stop, having stormed through Group B, plundering nine points and seven goals from their three games.
A rematch with Maradona might offer one of the toughest contests possible, but few would whip up the same level of excitement.
England’s players will not need reminding of the potential for exacting revenge over the former Argentina captain, whose brazen handball sent Bobby Robson’s team home from Mexico in 1986.
Many of the squad may even recall it as being among their first memories of watching football, going by the ages of much of Capello’s party.
And although Maradona has already enjoyed a colourful tenure as national coach, he is sure to relish facing the country that has demonised him most.
England have a history of highly-charged clashes with the two-time winners. In France in 1998 David Beckham was sent off for kicking out at Diego Simeone in a 2-2 draw, before England lost on penalties. Beckham settled the scores four years later in Japan by scoring the only goal from the penalty spot in a group stage victory over their old foes.