x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Diego Maradona loses his way during Brazil’s World Cup opener against Croatia

German chancellor stays cagey on World Cup winners while Argentina face investigation into 'provocative' banner

Diego Maradona, pictured during his meeting with Chinese Football Associations chief executive Wei Di in Beijing on August 16, 2012, needed a helping hand to escape a crowd of Brazilians during the opening match of the 2014 World Cup.
Diego Maradona, pictured during his meeting with Chinese Football Associations chief executive Wei Di in Beijing on August 16, 2012, needed a helping hand to escape a crowd of Brazilians during the opening match of the 2014 World Cup.

 Little Diego lost

Diego Maradona got lost trying to find his seat at the opening game of the World Cup and had to be rescued from a swarm of Brazil fans. Newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo said the Argentine great and Dubai ambassador had trouble finding his way around Arena Corinthians at Thursday’s match and was surrounded by Brazilians there to cheer on Argentina’s arch-rivals against Croatia. He was extracted from the crowd by an employee of the firm that built the structure for the stadium’s roof, the daily said. She took him to her VIP box, where Maradona settled in among the locals. Asked who he was supporting, the 1986 World Cup champion said: “Brazil, of course!” But when the hosts fell behind with an own goal, the Brazilians in the box moved away, Folha said. True to his word, Maradona applauded Brazil’s goals, but “without much euphoria”, Folha said. At half time he critiqued the team’s performance. “I didn’t like Brazil,” he said. “I didn’t like their defence. They were good on attack. They got the ball to Neymar. That’s good.”

 Merkel stays hopeful

Chancellor Angela Merkel is keeping her fingers crossed for Germany ahead of their opening World Cup match but says coach Joachim Loew’s team faces “a tough struggle” and will not be drawn on who will win the trophy. Merkel, a frequent guest at Germany matches in more than eight years as chancellor, will attend the Group G game against Portugal in Salvador tomorrow. She plans talks with Brazil president Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia today.

 Argentina banner rankles

Fifa has launched an inquiry into Argentina’s “provocative” unfurling of a banner laying claim to the Falkland islands at a friendly just before the World Cup. The head of Fifa’s disciplinary committee said the gesture was an “apparent breach” of regulations on “prevention of provocative and aggressive actions”. Argentina could be fined, officials said. Argentine players displayed the banner proclaiming “Las Malvinas Son Argentinas [The Malvinas are Argentinian]” to the crowd before a friendly against Slovenia five days ahead of the World Cup. The Falklands, which were at the centre of a 1982 war between Britain and Argentina, are known as Las Malvinas in Spanish.

 Chile unhappy tourists

Chile went into Friday’s Group B match against Australia with their noses out of joint after being put up at what one team official called “the worst hotel imaginable”. “The players aren’t happy,” the official said. “The air conditioning wasn’t working in four of their rooms and the internet is down. They are lost without it. All players these days need is a soccer pitch and internet. It’s supposed to be the second-best hotel in Cuiaba. Fifa are staying in the best one! Thank God we’re leaving tomorrow.”

 Aguilar to make history

Joel Aguilar will today become the first referee from El Salvador to take charge of a World Cup match when he officiates the game between Argentina and Bosnia at the Maracana. Argentina will remember him as Aguilar red-carded Javier Mascherano and booked four others in a friendly against the United States in 2008.

 Pricey poncho

A Brazilian at the rain-soaked match in Natal between Mexico and Cameroon sold his US$14 (Dh51) poncho to a foreign fan for $200, he said yesterday. Jose Humberto Martins said he got the poncho an hour before the match and was in the stadium when a woman offered in Spanish to buy the poncho for $200. “I thought it was a joke and kept walking. But then I thought about it and went back and asked if she was serious. She came with the money in her hand,” he said.

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