Taking a dig at his country’s media, Argentine coach Diego Maradona said on Saturday that his "disaster" team was now the favourites to win the World Cup.
Maradona looked relaxed Saturday on the eve of Argentina’s pre-quarterfinal match against Mexico and said his team is on the verge of creating history.
After a closed training session, Maradona hinted that he was still not happy with the fitness of defender Walter Samuels.
"We had a training with Samuels. He felt well, but I will be fielding the ones who will be in a better shape. We don’t want to mess up things in the match,” said Maradona at a crowded press conference here.
Maradona said his team is in great shape, but there are little things that are still bothering him.
"It's not easy to go from being nobody in your country and then going on to win three matches and stay focussed. People were saying we were a disaster, we were the worst team they've ever seen, and now they are saying we are an excellent team, that this team is great on the pitch.
"We have the same players as before, so you shouldn't believe what everyone says, just go on working the same way you have been working with the same ideas."
“I always say that others are favourites. This is a fight for our history. When the roads become shorter and narrow then you start your walk towards history,” said Maradona.
Asked if he was hurt with the criticism when the team had a bad run in the qualifiers, Maradona said: “I am 50 years old. All this criticism doesn’t affect me. But I feel bad for the boys. What makes me mad is when people lack respect for the players.
>"There are many players today who are being considered gods in Argentina and others who have been slaughtered by the media, and we simply want that these same journalists apologise to the players. It's just a matter of being honest."
>Looking ahead at Sunday’s clash at Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium, Maradona said: "Mexico are a team who you need to respect, and we are going to do that. But they should also respect us and our history. Mexico have a number of players who concern us. But we have our match to play, we have our players to field.
"We know the match is going to be tough but with the team we have and the players we have we can move forward.
"The present situation is great because we have fulfilled our duty to win the league matches and from here on we start building physically and mentally for the next step," said Maradona.