THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

12 June ~ So with the shouting largely over, and the team virtually confirmed, it's finally time for the adventure to begin. Diego Maradona's first two years (or just under) as Argentina manager have been eventful, but it's the next ten to 30 days that will define his managerial reign. French fans may contest that Maradona is only the World Cup's second maddest boss, but 40 million Argentines will be hoping his insanity proves inspired in the coming weeks.

There have been all sorts of issues off the pitch, of course. Not least the deportation of a number of the barra bravas who were sent to South Africa with the funding of an NGO, which has caused something of a stir in the Argentine press over the last five days. If anything, it's been a welcome distraction to the daily tales of training sessions going well and yet more players talking about how unified the entire squad are. The barras, having been sent home to Argentina, are now trying to get a court order to send them back to South Africa, on the basis that they were discriminated against by South African border control.

That's true of course – they were discriminated against on the basis of their criminal records, and in one case because the man in question had a passport that was 20 years out of date. (How did he get past passport control to get onto the plane in Buenos Aires in the first place? The managers at Ezeiza airport were unable to give a coherent answer to the Argentine media.) None of which is exactly unfair discrimination, but such is the impunity of the barras that they're cheeky enough to try winning a legal right to return anyway.

At this stage, though, few are worried about the idiot minority travelling, and far more back in Argentina are concerned with how Maradona's team will get on. There are those who've got faith – with D10S (that's a play on Maradona's shirt number and the name Dios or God) and the Messias (Lionel Messi) combining, how can they fail to lift the trophy – and those who are more sceptical about Maradona's ability to get anything at all from his charges.

Almost everyone is impressed with how unified the squad sound in press conferences. The shared sense of destiny is there for all to see, but of course every team can talk a good game before they've played a match. Maradona looks like he's going to play a 4-3-3 which he's never experimented with before, as a way of fitting Messi and Carlos Tevez into the same side as a classic centre-forward (Gonzalo Higuaín in this case). If the result is bad, the reaction is likely to be just as overblown as it would be in England following an underwhelming defeat. But if Argentina suddenly click – well, it will have been the work of God. All the same, the suspicion endures that for the faithful, the weeks ahead could be very trying. Sam Kelly

Read the WSC World Cup preview for Argentina

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