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Diego Maradona strutted onto the field at Soccer City an hour before the match and took a long look around, a king surveying his realm.The beard is graying, he's carrying more than a few extra pounds and his expensive gray suit strains at the seams across his broad back. Make no mistake, though. Even with the likes of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, Maradona is the undisputed star of Argentina's show."I'm giving my everything for the Argentine team," he said after a 4-1 World Cup victory over South Korea on Thursday that all but assured the Albiceleste of advancing to the round of 16.Whether Maradona can be as gifted a coach as he was a player remains to be seen. But his theatrics on the sidelines are already Oscar-worthy, commanding the spotlight as only "Pibe de Oro" - the Golden Kid - can.A magnet for attention, Maradona does his best to oblige. As his players warmed up before the game, he chatted with someone at the edge of the field - a few feet from a gaggle of photographers, of course. Wearing only a thin track suit on a cold, blustery day, his assistant was quick to drape a warm coat over his shoulders.As the team ducked back into the tunnel, he made eye-contact with someone in Argentina's cheering section, smiled, blew kisses and pounded his chest with his fist. When the team returned for the national anthems, as many cameras were focused on Maradona as the players.But just as he did two decades ago, he saved his best performance for the game itself.With diamond studs as big as mints gleaming in each ear, he embraced each of his players and sent them off. He tried mightily to restrain himself when play began, jamming his hands deep in his pockets or clasping them behind his back, fiddling with the rosary wrapped tight around the fingers of his left hand.He has as much trouble containing himself these days as befuddled defenses did 20 years ago.While South Korea's Huh Jung-moo didn't venture out of a small corner at the top of the coach's box, Maradona wore out a path on the grass with his pacing. Any time an Argentine player was knocked down or penalized, he threw up his arms in dismay - as if someone had attacked one of his children. After one foul too many for his liking, he began shouting at his old foe Huh.The last time Argentina and South Korea met in the World Cup, in 1986, Huh made what many would consider a reckless tackle on Maradona. The two insist all that is ancient history, but it sure didn't look that way. They shouted back and forth, Maradona punctuating his angry roars with hand gestures that would make the folks in Napoli proud.Finally, both coaches were told to simmer down.It wouldn't be the last time Maradona would be hushed. That dotted line designed to keep coaches in their boxes is merely a suggestion for him. He roamed up to the touchline, and all the way over to midfield on more than one occasion. Trying to corral a bull would have been easier than keeping him in place.At one point, unhappy with what he considered rough treatment of the Argentine players, he went to the side of the box to plead his case, standing quietly with his hands clasped as if in prayer. But the official was wise to his antics and never even glanced Maradona's way.Though beloved as a player, he's taken plenty of criticism since becoming coach, including his lack of experience and some tactical decisions.No one questions his passion.When one of Messi's shots sailed wide, Maradona gestured in frustration and gave the ground a vicious kick. He pulled at his hair after a miss by Tevez, his yelp so loud it almost drowned out the vuvuzelas. However, his joy after any one of his players scored was as heartfelt as the emotion he showed for his own years ago.Take, for example, Gonzalo Higuain. He scored three goals. Maradona wasn't sure the first one counted. When it did, he turned to the bench, a look of pure jubilation on his face, and doled out hugs and high-fives to everyone before holding his arms up in Rocky-like triumph.After Higuain's second goal, he practically skipped to midfield before jumping into the arms of one of his assistants. Then he turned toward the delirious Argentine fans and waved his right arm as if throwing a lasso, revving them up even more.With the game well in hand, Maradona's exuberance wasn't about to be contained. He deflected an errant ball with an effortless back volley, drawing a roar of delight from the crowd. He bear-hugged Higuain so tightly he almost lifted the striker clear off the ground, and he protested a late foul by Messi so vociferously you'd think the refs were Italian tax collectors.When the final whistle sounded, Maradona marched out to the center circle and, while Huh watched quietly from a distance, hugged every player and shook hands with the referees.The game may have passed to a new generation of Argentine stars. The spotlight, though, will always belong to Maradona.
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