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Football: World Cup 2002: YOU CHEATS; Having Sven as boss is like playing a foreigner says Argentine keeper.

Byline: PAUL SMITH

GERMAN BURGOS says England are cheats because they shopped abroad for a coach to revive their ailing fortunes.

The outspoken Atletico Madrid keeper also maintains that Sven Goran Eriksson's men are ordinary without captain David Beckham.

And, in an outburst guaranteed to add extra spice to what is already sure to be a volatile collision on Friday, he claimed Argentina are far more worried about Sweden and Nigeria.

His remarks are bound to spark another war of words between the two feuding nations, despite attempts by both sides to call a truce ahead of the game.

But Burgos makes no excuses for his outburst, saying: "England don't deserve to be in the World Cup finals because they have had to rely on a Swede to save them from failing to qualify.

"Why couldn't they find an English coach? If they go on to win the World Cup, which is extremely unlikely, do they have to split the trophy between England and Sweden?

"It makes a mockery of international football. It's no better than allowing a foreigner to play in your side - it amounts to cheating."

Undaunted by the prospect of the clash in five days' time in Sapporo, Burgos believes that without Beckham England are dysfunctional and that they rely far too heavily on the Manchester United star to bail them out of trouble.

"Beckham has largely carried the country's expectations on his shoulders," added Burgos. "It is far too much pressure to burden one player with.

"Without him they are fairly ordinary - aside from Michael Owen it's hard to see how they are going to trouble us.

"That is not being disrespectful to England - I just feel they are short of quality and will struggle to get out of the group ahead of Sweden and Nigeria.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Argentina will qualify in pole position, the others are merely fighting among themselves for the second qualifying place.

"There is a danger that people will get caught up in all the hype that followed the draw. It seems the only talking point was our game against England. But to be honest I think Sweden and Nigeria are a far bigger threat.

"That is not to say we won't beat them because we are single-minded in our quest to win the World Cup. But we know far more about England than we do about the other two and if I was a betting man I would put my money on Nigeria qualifying."

No matter who stands in Argentina's way, they bring a fearless approach to this tournament.

Burgos added: "People only have to look at our record in qualifying, when we finished 12 points clear of our nearest rivals, to see how big a threat we are.

"With all our players fit we have the strongest squad of the competing 32 nations and on form we can beat anyone.

"It is not arrogance, just pure belief in our own ability. All over the pitch we have world-class performers - but what makes us unique is not the individual ability but the collective one.

"We don't allow teams to breathe - we close sides down and then we pick them off.

"Being an attack-minded side, we aim to please as well. We will not adopt a cautious approach to games because it's not our style."

Confidence in Argentine ranks is high - some might say it is pure arrogance and will lead to their downfall. While South American rivals Brazil have suffered trying to live up to immense expectations going into the World Cup, Argentina are positively thriving on it.

"People go on about being burdened by expectations to the point that you cannot live with the immense pressure," said Burgos. "But we prefer to go into this World Cup rated as strong contenders to lift the trophy.

"We are not worried by the fact that many people favour us. Our own expectations outweigh anyone else's.

"To suggest we can't handle the pressure is utter nonsense - footballers at the highest level have to live with pressure all the time and it separates the great players from the merely good."

And, according to Burgos, there is an abundance of great players throughout the Argentine squad.

He adds: "Most of the players are household names like Juan Sebastian Veron, Hernan Crespo, Ariel Ortega, Gabriel Batistuta and Roberto Ayala - and that's enough to frighten the hell out of our opponents before we've even kicked a ball."

Not surprisingly it is the captain, Manchester United's Veron, who Burgos claims will have as big an impact on this World Cup as Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane had for the French four years ago.

Laughing off suggestions that Veron underachieved in his first season at Old Trafford, Burgos says: "If United played to Veron's strengths he would be indispensable.

"It is no coincidence that has so much influence on the national side. He is a world-class performer - few players possess his natural ability.

"He has nothing to prove to anyone and I'm convinced he'll be lifting the trophy on June 30."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 2, 2002
Words:847
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