Argentina coach Diego Maradona has taken a swipe at his critics, and thanked his players after they beat Uruguay 1-0 last night to book a place at next year's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Huracan midfielder Mario Bolatti, winning just his third cap, fired home with six minutes remaining in Montevideo, after the home defence failed to deal with Juan Sebastian Veron's drilled effort from a free-kick.
Maradona had come in for fierce criticism for his handling of Argentina's qualification campaign, in which he fielded over 70 players, but the victory secured them South America's final automatic qualifying berth. Afterwards, the 48-year-old was quick to praise his charges.
"I would like to thank the team for giving me the privilege to lead Argentina to the World Cup," he said. "Thank you to the Argentinian people who had faith.
This is for those who did not believe in the national team and treated me like dirt - they will now have to accept this.
"Thanks to the players who managed to stand firm and take this group forward. I have a good memory and now I am going to remember more than ever.
"This is for those who did not believe in the national team and treated me like dirt - they will now have to accept this. I want to thank the players and fans - no-one but them."
Maradona also hit back at reports of a rift between himself and team manager Carlos Bilardo. "They (the press) invented that I was fighting with Bilardo," he said.
"They gave wrong information. If you want to exchange information, to give it before you know the facts, the problem is yours."