30 Sep 2009

Maradona asks God to help Argentina qualify for World Cup

6:39 pm on 30 September 2009

Argentina football coach Diego Maradona has called on God's hand to shield the South American country from World Cup elimination.

Maradona, who as captain led Argentina to victory in the 1986 tournament in Mexico, has often said God saved him when he put his life in danger over his drug and alcohol addictions and hopes he will save him this time too.

Maradona's notorious 'Hand of God' goal during Argentina's 1986 quarter-final against England is one of the most talked about at a World Cup.

Argentina's fifth in the South American group, and would if they remain there would have to face a play off to make next year's tournament in South Africa.

The last time Argentina failed to make the finals was in 1970.

Meanwhile Mexico, which has twice staged the World Cup, has withdrawn bids to hold the 2018 or 2022 tournaments.

The withdrawal of Mexico, which staged the World Cup in 1970 and 1986, left Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands, England, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Spain and Portugal, Qatar, Russia and the United States as candidates for the tournaments.

FIFA will vote on the host nations for 2018 and 2022 in December next year.