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New Argentina national team coach Diego Maradona has hit back at those who say he is not experienced enough to lead his country.

Maradona yesterday beat off competition from Carlos Bianchi, Miguel Angel Russo and Sergio Batista to be named the surprise successor of Alfio Basile as coach of Argentina.

Speaking from his home in Buenos Aires, El Pibe d'Oro has described his happiness at this appointment.

"This is something I have wanted for a long time," said Maradona. "I dreamt of it.

"Speaking yesterday with my daughter [Gianina], I told her that her [unborn] son and this [job] are the best gifts that I could ever receive in my life."

Sections of the Argentine press have massacred the decision to appoint Maradona, who has had next-to-no experience as a coach since retiring from playing, and has also had some well-documented personal troubles.

"I laugh at those who say that I have no experience," said Diego, who will turn 48 tomorrow.

"I have more than 20 years of experience with the national team. Football hasn't changed, everything is already invented. I don't think anyone can surprise me on the field.

"For those who say I have little experience, I say to them that I have [Carlos] Bilardo by my side, who has more experience than anyone else.

"The appointment could not arrive at a better time of my life. This is the right time, I'm more mature. I'm very calm, knowing that we have incredible players to make all the country smile when they see the national team playing.

"I'll take all the time to appoint my assistants."

Asked about his others commitments [like exhibition matches] he concluded: "I dedicate everything to the national team now."

Maradona famoulsy led Argentina almost single-handedly to World Cup glory in 1986 as a player. Twenty-four years later he will now try to do the same as a coach in South Africa.

Anthony Sormani

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