Maradona asks media to apologise for criticising his players

Argentina's coach Diego Maradona [ ] launched into a heartfelt defence of his players who have won their three matches in the group, including Tuesday's 2-0 win against Greece with a largely reserve side.

diego maradona (left) with juan sebastian veronHe said the media who had criticised the team and players during the qualifiers when things were not going well for his team should apologise.

"Everything a lot of you said, you were wrong... You even showed a lack of respect for these players... (and) should apologise to these players because they give everything on the pitch, because they are 100 percent professional.

"We're doing our duty, we're defending the Argentine colours which we've always done.

"These same players were in the qualifiers. Anybody can make a mistake but I'd love it for those on the other side to say sorry."

Maradona was suspended by FIFA [ ] for two months last year for a foul-mouthed rant at reporters on the night his team secured their place at the finals.

He and the players were the butt of strong criticism for poor results that nearly ended in Argentina missing the finals for the first time since 1970.

Maradona also questioned fair play at the World Cup after Lionel Messi [ ] was treated to systematic fouling by Greece in Argentina's win on Tuesday.

"The famous fair play doesn't exist (here), let's make it effective once and for all," Maradona said.

"Because if each time Messi gets the ball they bring him down, what are we playing at?" he asked at the post-match news conference.

"After repeated fouls, take out the yellow card to the third (player) who hits Messi, and you'll see that defenders don't hit him any more.

"Why didn't the referee do that? It's in the regulations, man."

Maradona had a rant at what he saw as repeated foul throw-ins by the Greeks and said his complaint to the fourth official had fallen on deaf ears.