MARSEILLE Feb 11 Although Lionel Messi scored
yet another fantastic goal, it was the Barcelona forward's
defensive work that earned him praise from Argentina coach Diego
Maradona following a 2-0 defeat of France on Wednesday.
Messi, who has netted 16 goals from 19 Primera Liga this
season, slalomed through the French defence, wrongfooted centre
back William Gallas before coolly slotting the ball past keeper
Steve Mandanda to double his team's tally seven minutes from
"He played fantastic," Maradona told a press conference at
the Stade Velodrome.
"It is like the ball is an extension of his body.
"But what I really loved, more than the technical side, was
the way he and Segio (Aguero) fought for every ball," he added.
"They fought, never let go and defended a lot."
Maradona, who was appointed last October following the
resignation of Alfio Basile, said motivation was the key to
success for his team.
"There are two coaches who inspired me when I was a player:
(Cesar Luis) Menotti and (Carlos) Bilardo, they would force me
to go and be ready to die on the pitch.
"As a coach I have to motivate them, to encourage them to
give their best.
"However, you must not forget that it is always down to the
players. They are the ones winning the matches," he smiled,
before leaving the press conference room having signed a few
Argentina's next game will be at home against Venezuela on
March 28 in a World Cup qualifier.
Domenech acknowledged the better side won, although he was
satisfied with his team's first-half performance.
"We did very well until they scored. Then, we were
frustrated and probably try to rush things to equalise," he told
"The players were feeling it was unfair for them to be led
1-0 after what they had done. It was much better than two years
ago, I feel we played much better."
Two years ago, France went down 1-0 to Argentina in a
friendly at the Stade de France.
Their next match will be a World Cup qualifier in Lithuania
on March 28.
(Editing by Miles Evans)