'Diego will always be with us' as Argentina prepare for first World Cup since Maradona death
Argentina head to their first World Cup since Diego Maradona's death but the Albiceleste great will be there in spirit.
Lionel Scaloni's side are among the pre-tournament favourites in Qatar ahead of Tuesday's Group C opener against Saudi Arabia, searching for a first World Cup crown since a Maradona-inspired triumph in 1986.
There has not been a South American winner of FIFA's top tournament since Brazil in 2002, but Coppola hopes that will change for Argentina in their first outing since Maradona passed in November 2020.
"This is going to be the first World Cup that [Maradona] is not physically with us," said the 74-year-old. "But Diego will always be with us.
"The most precious good for Diego was the football. It wasn't life, which is the most precious good that human beings have.
"It wasn't freedom – to be able to decide and to do – which is the second one, the freedom for him was the ball.
"Where a ball rolls there is Diego, do not forget this, when you see a ball rolling say, there is Diego."
2.5% of all fouls committed in World Cups between 1982 and 1990 were on Diego Maradona @oilysailor pays tribute to a player who took the hits but kept on producing magical moments https://t.co/UWhXJ4Vor7— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) November 19, 2022
Argentina ended a 28-year wait for major silverware by beating Brazil in the 2021 Copa America final.
That makes this the first World Cup they enter as champions of South America since USA 94 and former Argentina captain Javier Zanetti expects his country to come out fighting as a unified group.
Speaking alongside World Cup winners Oscar Ruggeri and Mario Alberto Kempes, Zanetti added: "It means a lot to have a united, consolidated, solid group.
"I trust that Argentina is a group that came to Qatar knowing well what they want."
While Zanetti, now Inter vice-president, acknowledged the ill-timing of the November World Cup, he has little doubt Argentina will hit the ground running.
"We cannot know about the physical condition because this World Cup is atypical," the 49-year-old continued.
"It is being played in November and many consecutive games were played recently, so there is a lot of fatigue.
"But in general, I trust that players and national teams will arrive in good condition."