South American Dispatch: Enzo Francescoli Talks On Uruguay, Argentina And River Plate’s Tim Sturtridge reports on the retired striker speaking out about Uruguay and Argentina’s chances in South Africa plus his views on the mess at River Plate…

Uruguay’s most capped outfield player, Enzo Francescoli, has given his views on how he thinks his country will do in South Africa as well as what he expects from Argentina.

Francescoli become an idol of Zinedine Zidane when the Uruguayan spent a championship season at Olympique Marseille. Zidane paid the striker the tribute of naming one of his sons Enzo in recognition of his influence on the Frenchman.

With Uruguay facing France in their World Cup opener, Francescoli said that he and Zidane have been talking about the game.

“I had a laugh with Zinedine when I saw the draw for the World Cup, it is a tough opener for Uruguay that is for sure. When I was a player you always knew a game with the French would be difficult. They had problems in the qualifiers just like Uruguay so it remains a mystery how the game will be. For sure the first game will be crucial for Uruguay.”

Francescoli made his name in South America with his scoring exploits for River Plate so he is also in the perfect position to give his views on Argentina’s chances. The former Copa Libertadores winner is impressed with the strength in depth available to Argentina.

“Uruguay have great players in every position but they will struggle if they suffer too many injuries. Argentina have more balance in the squad and very good alternatives all over the pitch. Neither country enjoyed the best qualifying campaign so now they must improve a lot in a short space of time. Argentina of course have Messi, I think he can be as devastating as Diego Maradona was in 1986.”

During an interview in Argentina, the three-time Copa America winner admitted to having two teams to support at the World Cup.

“I dream that Uruguay can one day win the World Cup again. I will also be watching Argentina because they have such a great group of players. Messi is the best in the world right now and, with Maradona as coach, expectation is high.”

Francescoli revealed that he has great respect for Maradona after the former Napoli man took the head coach job with Argentina.

“The day Maradona took the job he chose to become mortal again. His achievements as a footballer had made him immortal, but as a coach he has a lot to prove. He knows better than most what is needed to succeed because he was the best in the world. I know he has very clear ideas about what he wants and I wish him and Argentina all the best.”

The Uruguayan was twice named South American Footballer of the Year during his time at River, also netting over 100 goals for the club. Francescoli admitted how much it hurts him to see his old team struggling on and off the pitch.

“Like all fans, I’m on the outside looking in and it hurts to see so many of my friends working and suffering for River. As fans we must support the club, the players and the new leadership. Radical change is needed at the club but the trouble is that the change needed requires economic power and there is no easy answers for this.”

Francescoli was lined up for a director of football job at River, but when new club president Daniel Passarella was elected, the role the Uruguayan fancied no longer existed.

“I was involved in another project and everybody understood that my project was different. Passarella has said that he does not want a general manager at the club. This was the job that I wanted but it was not to be, but I still talk to Passarella regularly.”

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