Injured di Maria out, Aguero back in training
Injured Argentina winger will miss semi-final but striker Aguero could feature against Holland
HOLLAND v ARGENTINA
(Thursday, 4am, SingTel mio TV Ch 141 & StarHub TV Ch 223)
Angel di Maria has been ruled out of Argentina's semi-final against Holland but fellow forward Sergio Aguero has recovered from a muscle strain and is fit to play, the team doctor said this morning (Singapore time).
Aguero looked comfortable in training at the Argentina camp, but di Maria was missing and undergoing intensive treatment after hobbling out of their 1-0 quarter-final win over Belgium yesterday morning.
Argentina, who qualified for their first semi-final since 1990, play Holland in Sao Paulo on Thursday morning.
"Angel has a Grade 1 injury. Of course he won't play in Argentina's next game.
"After that, we'll evaluate the situation day by day," team doctor Daniel Martinez told reporters.
"Sergio has practised three times. He's ready to play."
Aguero missed two games due to a muscle strain but, on the evidence of this morning's session at their camp in Belo Horizonte, the speedy forward should at least make the substitutes' bench.
Di Maria was forced off the pitch against Belgium, and it was later discovered that he had a first-degree tear in the rectus femoris of the right leg.
He may be out of the semi-finals but, in an effort to give himself a fighting chance at being ready for a potential World Cup final match next Monday morning, it was reported that di Maria will undergo stem-cell therapy to repair tissue, reduce pain and inflammation.
This is the same stem-cell treatment which once helped the player at Real Madrid.
Aside from that treatment, di Maria is set for a rigorous schedule of rest, ice, compression and elevation on his leg, while there will also be painless stretching and exercise-pool work in a detailed rehabilitation plan.
The absence of di Maria, Argentina's most creative player after captain Lionel Messi, is a significant blow to the South Americans' hopes of winning the tournament for a third time.
Nicknamed "Fideo" (Noodle) due to his slight frame, di Maria's electric pace can carry him past opponents and he also links up well with Messi and the other forwards.
His eye for goal was evident when he netted the winner in the 1-0 win over Switzerland in the last 16.
"He's vital, almost irreplaceable," Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said before the World Cup.
Sabella will now have to rely on di Maria's replacement to help unlock a well-drilled Dutch defence.
Despite the bad news, the Argentina squad looked relaxed during training, laughing and joking with Sabella.
They are based at Atletico Mineiro's training complex, where motivational banners in blue-and-white colours give them encouragement as fans huddle at the gates outside.
"The group, as a whole, is very happy, except for the situation with Angel, which is a great shame," midfielder Javier Mascherano told reporters.
"We hope he recovers soon."
Mascherano said that Argentina's improved performance against Belgium was due to a more intelligent approach, which they had to repeat against the skilful Dutch.
"Against Belgium, we used the spaces better. We didn't rush. We waited for the right moment to pass," he said.
"It was a lovely game but it was yesterday. Now we're focused on Holland.
"We've come far, Argentinians have waited 24 years for this, but we want to go further." - Wire Services.