The World Cup has taken another casualty of war. Just one day after Neymar picked up a tournament-ending back injury in Brazil’s quarter-final win over Colombia, Angel di Maria tore a thigh muscle while attempting a shot in his team’s quarter-final against Belgium. He tried to play on, but the pain was too bad for him to continue. Despite Di Maria’s ensuing substitution, Argentina still picked up a 1-0 victory over the Belgians.
The Argentinian goalscorer, Gonzalo Higuain, had positive words for the press about Di Maria, stating that Angel was a “key player in the [World Cup] project.”
Manager Alejandro Sabella was hopeful that Di Maria would be okay, but was quick to say that the team would not falter too much without him. He stated, “He is vital to us, but the players played an excellent match from a tactical and strategic point of view: the idea of giving and not receiving in order to create a virtuous circle. We want more, but we lived up to the objective, which was to be a part of the final four of the best teams in the world.”
Di Maria had a quiet tournament until the knockout stages. He and the rest of the Argentine national team relied heavily on the talismanic performance from playmaker Lionel Messi up to that point.
Despite this, Di Maria picked up some momentum in the Round of 16 match-up against Switzerland. With just two minutes left in extra time, he slotted home Messi’s pass for the match winner. And in the Belgium match, it was his pass that eventually found Higuain’s boot for the match winner.
Argentina will miss Di Maria’s playmaking ability, especially his pinpoint passing. His ability to pick a player out - whether it’s six or 60 yards away - is a great asset to their attack. He does have a powerful shot as well, and when needed, he can carry some of Messi’s attacking load. As Argentina moves on to the semifinals against the Netherlands, they will clearly be lacking some power in their attack with Di Maria missing.