Diego Maradona revelled in his involvement in one of the World Cup's most infamous incidents today by insisting Argentina's challenge to reclaim the trophy will not be reliant on "the Hand of God, because it is the will of God".
The South Americans collide with familiar foes in Germany tomorrow afternoon in a contest his opposite number, Joachim Löw, described as a "cut-throat fight", although Maradona's confidence would not be deflected before the tie. The 49-year-old, whose inspirational displays propelled his country to the trophy in 1986, ultimately at West Germany's expense, is convinced he is on the verge of steering Argentina to similar success as the team's manager in South Africa.
"I spoke with a group of children yesterday and they said to me: 'Diego, we want to get to the final. Can you give us that?'" Maradona said. "So I told them to calm down. In the end, it is about whether God wants us to be in the final, but I know that is what God wants. This time we will not need the Hand of God, because it is the will of God. I have spoken to my father who is not in the best of health, but he said that if we reach the final then he will come here to see us win. He just said: 'Do what you did in 1986, son.'
"We have no pressure on us, but we do have responsibilities to take the World Cup with us back to Argentina. We are fully prepared and are motivated to win. We have to make Germany pay for what they have said about us in the last few days. We will not forget what Bastian Schweinsteiger said. He has not treated us well at all, saying we are a misfit team. We will show them our qualities by playing football, by doing what we can do with the ball. I will see to that."
Maradona was referring to the animosity that has flared this week, with memories fresh of the sides' quarter-final collision in Berlin four years ago, which ended with rival players and coaching staff exchanging blows after Germany's victory on penalties. The Bayern Munich midfielder Schweinsteiger was critical of the Argentinians' behaviour in that fixture this week and accused the South Americans of whingeing to referees and using provocative tactics, stoking up the bad blood between the teams.
His coach, Löw, backed the midfielder's right to "freedom of speech" today but anticipated another fiery encounter at the Green Point Stadium. "We have great respect for the Argentinian team, but we know they play very physically," he said. "They push it to the limits. That's typical of South American teams. They're great people, but their play doesn't match the character of their nation. They're very aggressive on the pitch and that's what Bastian was saying. This will be a cut-throat fight again. It'll be aggressive, intense. Everyone will fight for every centimetre of ground."
These sides expect to be unchanged from their second-round victories over England and Mexico respectively with Löw, whose side were visited by their injured captain Michael Ballack today, describing his players as "hot" ahead of the quarter-final. Even so, they remain wary of the threat posed by Argentina and their mouth-watering array of attacking talents.
"No other country can compete in terms of the number of talented forwards at their disposal," said Löw. "To think that Diego Milito, who had such a fantastic season in Europe with Internazionale, does not even make their starting line-up ... their firepower is remarkable, so it's not just Lionel Messi we have to worry about. In 2006 we compiled a list of their penalty takers for Jens Lehmann. This time we'd need a brochure given the forward players they have. We've been warned. We know their attacking power.
"But you'd expect that of a side coached by Maradona. I remember him illuminating the tournaments in 1986 and 1990. He galvanised the whole football world with his skills in those finals – he was simply magical. He left a mark on football like no other player has ever done and he virtually decided the 1986 World Cup by his hand alone. Germany and Argentina have a wonderful history of meetings; I hope this will be another."