Crew's Argentines like their nation's chances

Schelotto, Padula can't wait for showdown with Germany

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Saturday could be the start of a pivotal period
in the marriage of Crew defender Gino Padula and his wife, Xiomara.

If Padula’s native Argentina defeats Germany in a World Cup
quarterfinal and Spain beats Paraguay it will set up an epic battle in the
Padula household on Wednesday.

“My wife, she is Spanish. If we meet in the semifinals maybe
we divorce,” he joked. “I say to her if we lose I’ll take my key and brush her
car after the game.”

Actually, all is fair in love and the World Cup.

His wife, whom he met while playing in Spain, also backs
Padula’s homeland.

“She has an Argentina shirt,” he said.

It’s not quite as audacious as the Maradona T-shirt Padula
will wear Saturday in honor of Argentina’s legendary player and current coach.

Maradona’s face is on the front and a picture of him
dribbling around six England players for his second score in the 1986
quarterfinals is on the back. The first goal he scored in that match was the infamous “Hand of God.”

“Greatest goal ever,”
said a smiling Padula.

His passion runs deep, maybe more than two other Argentines
with the Crew who said they will remain calm during the game.

“I will awake with the game and I will enjoy the game,” forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto said. "I hope
Argentina wins."

His concern is more for his player friends and Maradona.

“It’s okay if Argentina wins,” Schelotto said. “It’s okay,
too, if they lose but just for my friends (Martin) Palermo, (Carlos) Tevez or
Maradona I would feel sorry for them.”

Assistant coach Ricardo Iribarren said he won’t let the
match against rival Germany get to him.

“I’m watching as a fan to enjoy the game, not as a crazy
fan,” he said. “If we win, fine. If not, it’s okay. I’m also watching as a
coach; learning set pieces and how to play different systems.”

Padula wishes the game was later in the day so he can rest
for the Crew’s match against Chicago on Saturday night.

“Normally Saturdays I wake up midday, 12 o’clock. This
Saturday I wake up around 9,” he said. “If we (Argentina) win I cannot sleep
after the game.”

Schelotto thinks Argentina will win, “Argentina is going
very well. Germany improved in the last games against Ghana and England so I
think it will be a big game. I have confidence in our team.”

Padula didn’t make a prediction

“It is a very difficult game against Germany,” he said.
“They have young players that are good.”

Iribarren sees trouble.

“If Germany plays the way they did against England, we’re
out,” he said.

EKPO WAITING

Crew midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo, a member of Nigeria’s silver
medal team at the 2008 Olympics, said he was surprised but understands why
Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has suspended the national team from
international competition for two years after not making it out of the first
round of the World Cup.

“It was shocking to me but if you want to look at it in the
big picture the NFF [Nigerian Federation], they’re
not really doing a good job,” Ekpo said. “The president don’t have the right to
tell them to step down because under FIFA rules the government doesn’t have a
say.

“I think he’s just trying to disband the team and find a new
team but I don’t know how that is going to work,” he added. “They're [NFF] not
competent. ”

Ekpo doesn’t think speaking out will harm his chances with a
possible new regime.

“If they call me, I come to play good football,” he said.
“I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”