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Aiming to beat rivals at own game

DIEGO MARADONA'S World Cup news conferences four years ago generated such global media interest a ticketing system had to be created.

Alejandro Sabella, who will step down as Argentina coach after tomorrow's final, prefers his team's performances to do the talking.

In Germany, Argentina face a side Sabella has in some ways sought to emulate. He has instilled the tactical discipline and work ethic that helped his team come out of the group stage with maximum points and then deal with tricky European opponents in Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands in the knockout rounds.

Asked to sum up his players' qualities after the semi-final win over the latter, he simply said: "Humility, work and giving 100%."

It has not been a spectacular Argentina in Brazil but Sabella has focused on making sure a squad with an abundance of attacking talent, was not undone by a lack of recognised quality in defence.

"My job is to disguise that imbalance in the best way possible," he said before the World Cup. The model for a balanced team, he added, was Germany.

"Germany throughout their history have shown great physical and mental power," he said. They know what teamwork, organisation and long-term work are."

Sabella has also smartly kept a lid on expectations sent soaring by the presence of Lionel Messi. He has avoided the kind of hype Maradona generated, allowing a unit to evolve that is one win away from giving him a glorious send-off.

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