Maradona: Milito adds to Argentina scoring options

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Diego Maradona says the emergence of Diego Milito, who scored both goals in Inter Milan's Champions League final victory over Bayern Munich, only adds to Argentina's firepower up front in the World Cup.

Maradona gave a news conference Sunday for the first time since announcing his 23-man World Cup squad on Wednesday.

"He (Milito) scored two great goals, which show why I picked him," said Maradona, whose team faces Canada on Monday in the Gauchos' final warm up before the World Cup.

However, there may be little room in the Argentine lineup for Milito, who scored 30 goals from Inter Milan.

Maradona has said he may play three forwards, with Lionel Messi of Barcelona teaming up front the Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez of Manchester City. Milito, Sergio Aguero of Atletico Madrid and Martin Palermo of Boca Juniors look like to be only reserves.

A few days ago Maradona said he could not leave Tevez — the most popular player in the country — out of the lineup. In a recent poll, Messi was only No. 5 on the popularity list.

"It didn't surprise me what he (Milito) did. He's had a spectacular season. But so have Lio (Messi), Tevez and Kun," said Maradona, using Aguero's nickname. The Atletico Madrid player is his son-in law.

Maradona said several times he was relaxed going into his first World Cup as Argentina's coach, adding that the South Americans had everything needed to contend for the World Cup.

Maradona won the World Cup as a player in 1986 and led Argentina to the 1990 final. But he has been widely criticized since taking over as coach 19 months ago, many questioning his tactics and lack of formal coaching training. Argentina struggled to finish in the final automatic qualifying spot in South America, absorbing a humiliating 6-1 loss against Bolivia and a 3-1 loss at home against Brazil.

"I see this group as very solid," Maradona said. "We have character and everything we need to have a great World Cup."

Maradona has never publicly explained why he left Inter Milan defender Javier Zanetti and teammate and midfielder Esteban Cambiasso off the 23-man squad. When asked about it Sunday, he shrugged his shoulder and seemed insulted he was even asked.

"Again with the list of 23, brother," he replied to the question. "It's done. I've already handed it in."

Zanetti and Cambiasso seemed resigned to the decision, which Maradona had hinted at throughout qualifying.

In place of Zanetti, one of the world's most experienced defenders, Maradona picked Ariel Garce of Argentine club Colon. Garce has played only one match for the national team, appearing earlier this month in a 4-0 victory over Haiti.

Maradona predicted success, basing much of his confidence on Messi, the reigning FIFA player of the year.

"Messi is the best in the world and if he has the ball we have more possibilities," Maradona said. Thank God he's an Argentine."

He likened this World Cup to 1986, he led Argentina past West Germany 3-2 in the final at Mexico. Argentina opens on June 12 against Nigeria and also faces Greece and South Korea in Group B.

"We know we aren't the favorites, but we are going to surprise," he said. "We are hungry for glory. I see it similar to '86. Besides, Messi arrives better than I was."