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Maradona faces first real test

sports Updated: Mar 28, 2009 01:02 IST

Agencies
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Diego Maradona’s reign as Argentina coach begins in earnest when his side face Venezuela in a World Cup qualifier on Saturday, his home and competitive debut.

Maradona’s presence is expected to revive public enthusiasm in the national side which has dipped after a run of uninspiring performances under his predecessor Alfio Basile.

The atmosphere at the Monumental stadium has been strangely subdued in recent games, far from the intimidating, paper-throwing crowd which has traditionally greeted visiting teams.

Argentina have played two friendlies under Maradona, winning 1-0 in Scotland last November and 2-0 in France in February. Though not the most testing opponents, especially away from home, Venezuela are capable of pulling off upsets and last June managed to beat Brazil in a friendly.

Spain ready for Turkey

Madrid: The five Spanish players who joined up with the squad with minor problems have recovered and will be available for the two World Cup qualifiers against Turkey, coach Vicente del Bosque said on Friday.

Striker David Villa, midfielders Xavi and David Silva and defenders Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique had all been doubtful for Saturday's match in Madrid and Wednesday's clash in Istanbul.

“There were some light injuries and problems that have been improving all the time and all the players in the squad will all be available," Del Bisque said. “We can choose the team we think is the best.”

The European champions are unbeaten in 29 matches stretching back to a 0-1 defeat against Romania in November 2006 and top Group Five with 12 points from four matches, four ahead of the Turks.