Pretoria, June 21 (DPA) Argentine coach Diego Maradona said Monday that star striker Lionel Messi would play against Greece in the teams' third and last Group B match of the football World Cup.
"Messi is the best player in the world. He makes the difference in a game. We wanted to give him a break, but Messi always wants to play and he will play. It would be a sin not to give him to the people," Maradona said at a press conference in Pretoria.
He said he was not worried that the Barcelona superstar had yet to score at the World Cup in South Africa.
"If some people say he's having a bad run in front of goal in this tournament, let him continue with this bad run. I'm extremely happy with this run because even though he has yet to score, he has many opportunities and he defines a game," Maradona said.
"There were matches (in my playing days) when I didn't score, but we won them."
Maradona said he would make as many as seven line-up changes for the match against Greece in Polokwane Tuesday night. He insisted, however, that the team on the field would be good enough to win.
Messi, Maxi Rodriguez, Martin Demichelis and goalkeeper Sergio Romero will start alongside Diego Milito, Sergio Aguero and veteran midfielder Sebastian Veron, who missed the 4-1 victory over South Korea on Thursday due to a slight calf injury.
Jonas Gutierrez has been booked twice and is suspended. His place will be taken by Nicolas Otamendi. Gabriel Heinze and captain Javier Mascherano will be rested because each has been yellow-carded once.
Clemente Rodriguez will step in for Heinze. Nicolas Burdisso will replace Walter Samuel, who is nursing a hamstring injury.
The Argentina strike force will, therefore, have Messi, Milito and Aguero, with hard-working Carlos Tevez taking a deserved rest.
"I believe in the team that will tackle Greece. These players are ready to play, just as when they played Nigeria. I'll field 11 players who want to play, and if they do that, they'll play in the round of 16. This is their chance," Maradona said.
The Argentina coach refused to accept the favourites' tag that is now being hung on the team.
"We're not favourites... We weren't favourites before the World Cup and neither are we favourites now," he remarked, saying he was "weary" of the favourites' tag because "favourites tend to stumble occasionally."
Maradona added, "I like my team. We're good and solid in defence, good in attack. I also like Brazil, even though they aren't playing very well and even if they have to use their arms to score."