Argentina, Maradona arrive in SAfrica for WCup

May 29, 2010 - 2:44 PM By GERALD IMRAY AP Sports Writer

JOHANNESBURG(AP) -- Diego Maradona and his Argentina squad arrived in South Africa for the World Cup on Saturday, looking jet-lagged as they were greeted by media at the Johannesburg airport.

Maradona blew a kiss to reporters at the O.R. Tambo International Airport, saying "Hola, South Africa. I love South Africa."

The Argentina coach did not stop to take questions before leaving for his team's base at the High Performance Centre in the capital Pretoria, just north of Johannesburg.

Lionel Messi was also subdued on his first appearance in South Africa. Wearing a white baseball cap, the Barcelona forward did not react to requests from the assembled media for a smile or a wave.

The Denmark squad also arrived before catching a connecting flight to its team base in Cape Town.

Security was high at the airport, with a line of South African police carrying guns and wearing dark blue uniforms moving out onto the tarmac as the Argentina team's airplane taxied toward the building. Maradona, who has already named his final 23-man World Cup squad, led the players off the plane on the short walk to the newly built special arrival facility for World Cup teams.

His squad members, including Manchester City's Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero of Atletico Madrid, followed in the bright morning sunshine wearing team tracksuits. Argentina boasts a talent-filled squad, which also includes Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain, Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano and Diego Milito, the striker who scored both goals in Inter Milan's 2-0 win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.

Argentina faces Nigeria, South Korea and Greece in the group stages in South Africa. The two-time World Cup winner will play Nigeria at Johannesburg's Ellis Park on June 12.

The Danes arrived on a Swissair flight less than 24 hours after coach Morten Olsen named his 23-man group for the finals, dropping goalkeeper Kim Christensen, midfielders Michael Silberbauer and Michael Krohn-Dehli and striker Morten Rasmussen.

Denmark's squad includes Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner, Liverpool defender Daniel Agger, and veterans Thomas Sorensen, Jon Dahl Tomasson and Christian Poulsen of Juventus.

Olsen did have time, however, to say he thought the winter conditions in South Africa would produce fast, high-tempo soccer at the World Cup.

"I think the conditions are not summer now and here it is winter and it's not so warm," Olsen said. "So surely it will be a very high pace in the games."

Denmark plays the Netherlands, Cameroon and Japan in Group E. Its first game is in Johannesburg against the Dutch on June 14 at the showcase Soccer City stadium.

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