Argentina defender Martin Demichelis has hit out at the critics who wrote off his team's chances of winning the FIFA World Cup™.

After scraping through qualifying in their final game, few thought Diego Maradona's erratic style of management would bring Argentina any success in South Africa. But as the tournament gets closer, suddenly the sheer depth in quality at Maradona's disposal is starting to become obvious.

With a favourable draw as well, from being makeweights, suddenly Argentina are edging towards favouritism. And for Demichelis that fact alone should have a few doom-merchants eating their words.

"This team has grown in the last few months," he said. "Most of the criticisms levelled against us in the first place were really unfair anyway. There is a lot of belief in this squad and there is no doubt we will be one of the best-prepared teams to fight for this competition."

The criticisms clearly stem from Maradona's management style rather than the ability of his players. In Lionel Messi, Argentina boast the world's number one. Yet Messi has astounding support in Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Diego Milito, none of whom are likely to feature in the opening game against Nigeria at Ellis Park on Saturday because Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain is favoured to partner Messi.

Not that Demichelis is interested in condemning his coach. To the Bayern Munich central defender, the 49-year-old is a hero. And what he lacks in coaching finesse, he makes up for in his sheer presence.

"Of course Maradona helps us," said Demichelis. "He motivates us a lot and takes all the pressure away. He is a very important figure for us. He gives us energy and hunger to do well."