'He was toying with me' - Socceroos great Wade recalls Maradona matchup

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Former Socceroos captain Paul Wade says Argentina's legendary Diego Maradona toyed with him during a FIFA World Cup qualifier in 1993.

"You're not that big," Wade thought, sizing up Argentina's football legend.

Wade was tasked with shadowing Maradona when Australia played Argentina in two World Cup qualifiers in 1993.

"I was given the job two weeks out... well, I didn't get a wink of sleep for two weeks," Wade said in a video released by the Socceroos on Thursday after Maradona's death.

Wade recalled assessing Maradona's stature in the Sydney Football Stadium tunnel before the 1-1 draw on October 31, 1993, the day after the Argentinian turned 33.

"I thought 'now, do I look tough or do I say something encouraging?'," Wade said.

"Do you know what I did? I wished him happy birthday.

"I thought that will put him off, I thought now he's freaking out going, 'what, a World Cup qualifier and he's wishing me a happy birthday?'.

"When the game started I am standing next to arguably the greatest player to ever play the game. Wow."

Wade largely subdued the Argentinian maestro though Maradona did set up the visitors' goal.

"I really had no chance. He was just toying with me," Wade said.

"I can't imagine what it would have been like playing against the '86 Maradona, I got him when he was coming back from a drugs suspension."

On the final whistle, Wade sought a shirt swap with Maradona.

"The thing that disappointed me was that I didn't get to swap his shirt on the ground in front of everyone," he said.

"I ran around after him for 90 minutes in that first game, I wasn't going to let him go without getting his shirt.

"So I went and stood outside their dressing room and just waited... fortunately somebody went in and brought it out.

"And I went, 'yes'. I have got a Maradona shirt."

Australia travelled to Buenos Aires for the second leg on November 17 and were beaten 1-0, with an own goal resulting in Argentina's winner.

As a disconsolate Wade mourned another missed opportunity for Australia to qualify for a World Cup, Maradona consoled him.

It took another dozen years before Australia qualified for a World Cup again - without Wade, who retired in 1996.

Source AAP