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Last Updated: Monday, 1 May 2006, 23:17 GMT 00:17 UK
Maradona predicts England success
Gary Lineker and Diego Maradona
BBC One: 2 May 2006, 2235 GMT
Football legend Diego Maradona believes Sven-Goran Eriksson's England side can win the World Cup in Germany.

Speaking before striker Wayne Rooney picked up a foot injury, Maradona, 45, said in a BBC documentary to be shown on Tuesday: "England has a good team.

"It is much stronger than at previous World Cups."

In the interview with ex-England star Gary Lineker, the Argentine added: "With the experience of its players it could be a good World Cup for them."

Maradona is also a big fan of Rooney, who faces a race to be fit for this summer's tournament after breaking a bone in his foot when playing for Manchester United.

He said: "I have seen Rooney and I like him. He has got character, he has got strength and he sticks out his backside."

The interview marked the first meeting between Lineker and Maradona since 1987, when they played in a Wembley Centenary match.

Their previous encounter had been in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup - when Argentina beat England 2-1, thanks to two goals from Maradona.

The first was the infamous 'hand of God' goal; the second was one of the greatest goals of all time, when Maradona dribbled from his own half before rounding England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to score.

Lineker told Maradona the second goal was "probably the one and only time in my whole career I felt like applauding the opposition scoring a goal".

And the Argentine said he might only have been able to score such a goal against England.

It was my hand but no, I don't think it was cheating
Diego Maradona

"To score that goal for me was fantastic - and in a World Cup, incredible," he said.

"When you talk about playing against Italy, Uruguay or Brazil, it is much more complicated to do the move that I did than playing against England.

"Because the English player is a lot more noble, a lot more honest on the pitch."

Maradona admitted he had scored the first goal with his hand - but denied that it was cheating.

"It was my hand (but) no, I don't think it was cheating. Cunning, cheekiness, craftiness, but not cheating," he said.

"Maybe we have more of it in South America than in Europe.

"I don't mean any disrespect to England fans but this is something that happens.

"I had scored goals before in Argentina with my hand. I couldn't reach it and Shilton was already there. I couldn't head it, so I did like that.

"And I moved my hand back and started to run. Shilton did not realise - the one who realised was Terry Butcher."

And the Argentine explained why he described the goal as "the hand of God".

He said: "Because God gives us a hand. Because it's very difficult for it not to be seen by two people - the referee and the linesman. That's why I said it was the hand of God."

Five days with Diego
30 Apr 06 |  Football


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