Maradona - Messi fit to start
Diego Maradona says he has never considered leaving Lionel Messi out of his Argentina team to face Germany.
Last Updated: 03/07/10 9:28am
Diego Maradona says he has never considered leaving Lionel Messi out of his Argentina team to face Germany in the World Cup quarter-finals.
Messi has not played a full part in training in the build-up to Saturday's game in Cape Town after suffering from flu-like symptoms in recent days.
However, he participated in part of Friday's practice session and Argentina coach Maradona has no concerns over the Barcelona star's fitness for the Germany encounter.
"He did feel a bit under the weather, had a slight fever," said Maradona
"He told me about it and I sent him back inside. It was very cold when we started training at 4.30pm. I gave him a bit of a rest.
"The session went well, but I never considered him not playing in this game. I just let him have a rest so he could play against Germany."
Freedom to play
Messi has not scored so far at this World Cup, but has provided assists for more than half of Argentina's 10 goals and Maradona will allow him the same free role he used to occupy for the national team.
"I want to give him freedom to play his game," said Maradona. "He has no defined position.
"These players, like Messi, if you label them or shackle them, you'll detract from their freshness and initiative."
Maradona refused to accept Argentina were now favourites to win the trophy after Brazil's defeat against Holland.
He said: "No. No. We're not favourites. But to beat us our opponents are going to have to play better than us and leave their skin on the pitch.
"We don't feel like we're hot favourites. We have to keep playing our football. We're focused."
The 1986 World Cup winning captain also praised the contribution of Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez during the tournament.
"I've known him for a long time and he's phenomenal," said Maradona. "He's playing a great World Cup and we're very proud of him.
"Wherever he plays - West Ham, Corinthians, Manchester United or Manchester City - he always excels. He's always the same."