Monday, June 14, 2010

Lagerback explains Maradona snub

Nigeria head coach Lars Lagerback has explained why he didn't shake the hand of his counterpart, Argentina's Diego Maradona, after the match on Saturday.

Nigeria lost 1-0 to La Albiceleste at the Coca-Cola Park Stadium in Johannesburg and the Swede walked off-the-field without offering Maradona a handshake, a custom in soccer games, drawing conclusions from the media that he had been too upset with the loss or his players for the number of chances they missed in the second half.

"You can do that (shake hands) whenever you like. It doesn't have to be straight after the match. No, there was no reason why I didn't shake his hand," said Lagerback. "I have a lot of respect for him and it is not a problem for me shaking his hand," he said.

Turning his focus to the defeat, Lagerback said he was gutted, for the Super Eagles deserved a draw. "Of course I'm very disappointed but I was really impressed with my players, because they did very well against some of the best players in the world. We deserved a draw," he said.

Despite hailing his players' efforts, Lagerback admitted he felt they could have done better in dealing with Juan Veron's corner that picked Gabriel Heinze unmarked in the box to score Argentina's only goal with a diving header in the sixth minute.

"I have given my players a lot of credit for doing so well in dead-ball situations during the friendlies but the way games are played at this level is that if you lose concentration and don't mark players in the box you are going to be punished we were punished this time, otherwise I think we could have earned a draw, but we are not out of it yet," said Lagersback, whose side face Greece on June 17 in Bloemfontein in their next match.

Lagerback also defended the choice to start with Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi on Nigeria's left side of attack in place of a well-established Peter Odemwingie.

"We thought Obasi was the best player to play and that was the reason. I thought he did a very good first half but he got tired in the second half but he lived up to the expectation I had on him," he concluded.

This Day

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