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Sunday, 9 June, 2002, 22:44 GMT 23:44 UK
Maradona will arrive late
Diego Maradona will be allowed to watch the World Cup in Japan after all
Maradona: Much maligned for using drugs

Football legend Diego Maradona is set to arrive in Japan - but not until after Argentina's crucial final group game with Sweden on Wednesday.

The former Argentina skipper was initially barred from Japan because of his history of drug abuse.

But Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama approved his entry after considering the Maradona's iconic status in world football.

Open Quote
My conscience is clear because I did not do anything wrong
Close Quote
Diego Maradona

However, the formalities are still being finalised which is why Maradona will not arrive until after the final group F game.

Argentina have to beat group-leaders Sweden if they are to advance to the knockout stages of the World Cup.

Maradona, who led Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986, was originally expected to arrive in Japan on Monday.

Approval came after the Argentine government submitted an official request to the Japanese embassy in Buenos Aires requesting that Maradona be allowed entry as the country's tourism and sports envoy.

Earlier in the week, the revered striker attacked the Japanese authorities who dashed his hopes of attending the World Cup.

"I did not kill anybody and I respect Japanese laws," he told US cable TV station Fox Sports.

"I did not throw any nuclear bombs at them. If they want to safeguard their country, the Japanese would not have allowed any of the United States players in."

Maradona, who was sent home from World Cup 94 after failing a drugs test, had a long wait before finally being notified that his visa had been turned down.

"I requested the visa six months ago but I was refused and that is extremely cruel," he said.

"However, my conscience is clear because I did not do anything wrong."

Argentina's final Group F game takes place in Miyagi against Sweden. It is a game the South American's must win if they are to advance to the knockout stages.


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GROUP F
  P GD PTS
SWEDEN 3 +1 5
ENGLAND 3 +1 5
ARGENTINA 3 0 4
NIGERIA 3 -2 1

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