Maradona and Aimar remember Argentinian triumphs

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They won FIFA U-20 World Cup titles almost 20 years apart: one at Japan 1979, fifacoin the other at Malaysia 1997. Another two decades on, Diego Armando Maradona and Pablo Cesar Aimar met up this week in Suwon for the Official Draw for the next edition of the competition: Korea Republic 2017.

The Argentinian idol and his faithful disciple got talking football, and FIFA.com was there to put some questions their way.

FIFA.com: Diego, what memories do you have of those world youth finals in Japan?
Maradona: I remember that what saved us was having [Cesar] Menotti as our coach, because we didn’t have a strong team. El Flaco [Menotti’s nickname, “The Thin One”] didn’t travel with us and we could barely put a foot on the ball in our first training session. But then Cesar arrived and everything changed. He said to each of us: ‘You’re going to represent your family, your friends, your flag and all the people who love it. So go out there tomorrow and smash that ball.' We wanted to get out on the pitch there and then.

What was the tournament like?
Maradona: It was good because there were some strong teams around: Russia, Uruguay, the old Yugoslavia, who ran rings round us in the first half. But what happened? The Argentinians had a No10 who got this side and that of their centre-halves, and in the end we won 1-0 (laughs).

Aimar: Can you remember what round that was?

Maradona: That win over Yugoslavia took us into the next phase. That’s a good question, Pablo, because the boys grew in belief with every round, because they were kids. It’s not like the World Cup: the boys were scared because they were only 19. But El Flaco got hold of you, took you on a stroll round the pitch and gave you a whole different mindset.

Aimar: Did you know that I’m called “Cesar” after Menotti?

Maradona: And do you know why El Flaco came to coach us? Because things were going badly for him with the senior team.

Aimar: He’d just won the World Cup with Argentina and that was a bad year?

Maradona: 1979 was a terrible year. fifacoin.com We couldn’t even beat Bolivia.

Diego, going back to the World Youth Championship (as the U-20 World Cup was previously known), Argentina went a goal down in the final.
Maradona: Yes, but we came back. We went 2-1 up and we started to put them under pressure. We kept taking the ball off them and they couldn’t get past the halfway line. That was the day I realised that the best form of defence is when you keep the ball, not the other team. Then I scored the third from a free-kick. It was fantastic because we’d never celebrated anything like that, in another country. When we lifted the trophy the whole stadium was singing: ‘Ar-gen-ti-na! Ar-gen-ti-na!’