Football

No pain, no gain

Argentine midfielder Mascherano's match-saving stop in semi-final comes 
at a nasty price

Javier Mascherano is receiving all the attention after the semi-final win his Argentine side pulled off against Holland yesterday morning (Singapore time).

One of the main talking points was the sure goal the Argentina midfielder managed to save from the boot of Arjen Robben in the six-yard box in the last minute of a tense clash.

Argentina went on to win via a penalty shootout and set up a clash against Germany in the final on Monday morning (Singapore time).

To manage that block, Mascherano was at full stretch and remained in pain on the pitch for some minutes afterwards.

He appeared to have suffered from a serious muscular injury from the last-gasp block, which he made at full speed.

The player explained on Argentine TV: "In that movement I opened my anus, for that reason I was in such pain.

"I don't want to be rude, but that is what happened.

"It was not all my good work, because Robben gave me a chance; he gave me the opportunity to gain a split second on him when he touched the ball and I managed to win it from him.

"What I did anybody would have tried, to get to the final you need that little bit of luck."

The Barcelona player is convinced that "this happens once in a lifetime and we have to take advantage of it", and he was quick to share the praise around the whole team.

He said: "We are a team of 23 players, the coaching staff ...we are all in it.

"This side was born in Barranquilla in the qualifying stages in 2012.

"There are many players that are not even in Brazil right now, but they are in our minds. This belongs to them as well."

Mascherano's good work in the tournament did not go unnoticed.

Argentina legend Diego Maradona sang his praises on his nightly TV sports show "De Zurda".

He said: "When I said 'Mascherano and 10 others', some laughed, but today they're not laughing.

GOOD STRATEGY

Describing coach Alejandro Sabella's strategy as "really good", he added: "The Argentine jersey had lost a little prestige, but it regained it once more.

"Argentina didn't play well, but it didn't let Holland play well either, because Holland knows how to play well."

Meanwhile, winger Angel di Maria went through a light training session this morning despite suffering a thigh injury just days ago.

Argentina's most creative player after Lionel Messi, he hurt a muscle when shooting at goal during the quarter-final win over Belgium.

The speedy Real Madrid player, who links well with Messi in Argentina's attack, jogged lightly in his first training since the injury at Argentina's camp in Belo Horizonte.

Di Maria is racing against the clock to be ready for Monday morning's (Singapore time) final against Germany at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium, though.

Sources close to the Argentine squad said the best he could hope for would be a place on the substitutes' bench, with an outside chance of coming on.

World Cup