Fiery Paraguay goalkeeper Chilavert blasts coach Maldini

ASUNCION: Paraguay only reached the second round of the 2002 World Cup Finals after the players decided to ignore the instructions of coach Cesare Maldini, goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert said on Tuesday. 

Chilavert added that the players spoke in Guarani, an Indian language understood by nearly all Paraguayans, to confuse their coach and said Maldini had bought tickets to watch his son Paolo play for Italy in the second round before Paraguay had completed their first round games. 

“We were on our own in the World Cup,” said the fiery goalkeeper in a stinging attack on the Italian veteran in an interview with an Asuncion-based television network. 

“Maldini had confirmed his plane tickets to Japan before the game against Slovenia (Paraguay’s final first round match) to go and see his son who was playing for Italy,” he said. 

Paraguay sneaked into the last 16 of the World Cup on goal difference after producing a spectacular second-half comeback to beat Slovenia 3-1, having gone in 1-0 down at half-time and had a man sent off. 

“At half-time, the players decided to go on the attack and not do things the way the coach had told us,” said Chilavert, who has scored more than 50 goals from free-kicks and penalties in his career. 

“We forgot about the team staff and the funniest thing was that afterwards they had to change their tickets,” he said. 

Chilavert added, laughing, that “he (Maldini) didn’t speak Spanish well and that we would speak Guarani”. 

Maldini was in charge of the Paraguay team for the six months before the World Cup after Sergio Markarian, who had guided the team through the qualifiers, was surprisingly sacked. 

Before Japan and South Korea, Chilavert supported the Italian, who was criticised for not spending enough time in the South American country and who became embroiled in a controversy over whether he had a work permit. 

Chilavert has been out of action following an acrimonious split with French club Racing Strasbourg in September. 

He has been training with his former club Velez Sarsfield in Argentina to stay in shape and has turned down an offer to join Cerro Porteno, Paraguay’s most popular club. 

The 37-year-old, who has been the lynchpin of the team for more than a decade, also wanted to be considered for the qualifiers for the 2006 World Cup, which are due to start in August. 

“It’s another possibility,” he said. “Although if I’m not in good shape, I’m intelligent enough to take a step back for the good of the team.” – Reuters 

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