Beleaguered Argentina coach Diego Maradona on Tuesday sought divine intervention as he pondered his side's chances of reaching the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ after some recent poor showings, notably a home loss to Brazil.

"The bearded one (God) saved me many times before - and I hope he will do so this time," Maradona said.

The 1986 world champion famously dubbed his first quarter-final goal in that year's competition the work of the "hand of God" after he slam-dunked the ball past Peter Shilton in the England goal before a brilliant second individual effort settled the encounter.

The bearded one (God) saved me many times before - and I hope he will do so this time.

Diego Maradona appeals to the heavens

But as coach he is struggling to keep Argentina afloat after recent losses to Brazil and Paraguay, and the albiceleste now lie fifth in the continental group, one place below the final qualifying berth.

Next week the team take on Peru at home before a final make-or-break match away to Uruguay in Montevideo. "We have to get it into our heads that these two games are crucial to our hopes and we can't keep giving things away such as we did against Brazil," said Maradona.

Maradona, who recently went on a slimming course in Italy, where he formerly starred with Napoli, said that while he was over there fans had told him "a World Cup without Argentina just wouldn't be the same".

He responded: "Don't worry, Argentina will be there."