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Lionel Scaloni calls on Argentine footballers to honor Diego Maradona’s memory

Argentine football manager Lionel Scaloni has called on his players to honor the memory of Diego Maradona and bring back the 2022 World Cup against Mexico.

On the second anniversary of the national football hero’s death, Scaloni summoned the spirit of the man who led his country to success in 1986 as they look to bounce back from a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia.

Anything short of a win would have left South America’s hopes of qualifying from Group C hanging by a thread.

“Today is a very sad day for everyone,” Scaloni told a news conference.

“We hope that tomorrow will bring some joy to Maradona, who will be watching us from the sky. This will be the most important for us.

“Every time we see pictures of him, it’s unbelievable that he’s not here with us. I hope tomorrow will be a happy day for all of us.”

While the 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia, who were in the lead, was a big surprise and jeopardized Argentina’s tournament, Scaloni says they left the score behind.

And he is confident his players will respond after promising to “break their necks” to turn things around.

“Emotionally, we had to digest (the result) and when you have one punch, two punches, what you have to do is bounce back and this group is ready to stand up and bounce back,” added Scaloni.

“We may get hit like in the opening game but we know we have to stick to our guns. We have a style that is non-negotiable.

“We will always break our backs until the last second we are on the pitch so that we can reverse this initial situation. It’s not negotiable.”

Mexico manager Gerardo Martino was born in Rosario – Lionel Messi’s hometown – 280 miles from Buenos Aires and was Maradona’s former teammate at Newell’s Old Boys.

However, he claims to have no divided loyalties as he prepares to face his homeland.

“If you were in my place, what would you do? Mexico must win, we hope Mexico will win,” he said.

“I can talk about the place, the characteristics of my city, the hospital where I was born, but I work for Mexico and I want to win the game.

“What happens in football, I leave in the context of football. I am aware of the importance of this match for both Mexico and Argentina, but I have to do everything in my power for Mexico to win. It’s the only thing I can do.”

After the first draw with Poland, a point against Argentina would not be disastrous for Mexico, especially since the group’s supposed fish, Saudi Arabia, is still playing.

But Martino insists they cannot approach the game with that attitude.

“It’s very difficult to look at it from that point of view,” he added.

“Sometimes you’re not worth winning and you end up in a draw and that’s a good result, but sometimes you deserve better and you don’t win.

“I think we could have had a better result against Poland, so we need to analyze things beyond the result.”

Martino coached Messi for a short spell at Barcelona and admits he may have just had an off day in the first match.

“We have to think that Messi will show his best version. Sometimes even without being at the top of your game for 90 minutes, anything can happen in five minutes.

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