Football

Di Maria's no magician

Loew insists Germany would have still won the World Cup even if Argentinian was fit for final

Angel di Maria races on to Javier Mascherano’s through-ball before coolly dinking the ball over halftime substitute Roman Weidenfeller for Argentina’s fourth goal. TNP GRAPHICS: BILLY KER

Di Maria’s excellent free-kick from the left is met by the head of Swansea defender Federico Fernandez at the back post. TNP GRAPHICS: BILLY KER

Five minutes before half-time, di Maria again finds himself in space and he has plenty of time to pick out Erik Lamela. Standing to the left the of the penalty spot, the Tottenham winger caresses a volley past Manuel Neuer and into the top corner. Di Maria’s. TNP GRAPHICS: BILLY KER

Getting possession near the corner of the penalty area, di Maria played in a sumptuous cross with the outside of his left foot that leaves the unmarked Sergio Aguero with an easy close-range finish. TNP GRAPHICS: BILLY KER

GERMANY 2

(Andre Schuerrle 52, Mario Goetze 78) 


ARGENTINA 4

(Sergio Aguero 20, Erik Lamela 40, 
Federico Fernandez 47, Angel di Maria 50)

Three assists and one goal.

Angel di Maria showed what Argentina missed in the World Cup final in Brazil on July 13 when he single-handedly tore apart world champions Germany in a friendly in Dusseldorf yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The Manchester United record signing stepped up in the absence of injured captain Lionel Messi, creating three goals for his teammates and scoring Argentina's final goal, which at the time, put his side 4-0 up.

So impressive was the performance of the Argentina winger, who had missed the final through injury, that even many of the German fans in the Dusseldorf Arena applauded his performance when he was replaced late in the match.

It has been suggested that if di Maria had been fit for the World Cup final, Argentina would not have lost to Germany.

But that is something Germany coach Loew has instantly dismissed, pointing out that the Argentina star would not have effected the outcome of the World Cup final if he had played.

"We would have also won World Cup final if di Maria was also there," said Loew after the match.

"He would not have been able to do anything against us in that game."

Loew also played down the importance of the friendly defeat for the world champions, explaining he was implementing a new system, while some of his players have not yet hit the top of their game.

"You can't repeat a World Cup final. This friendly game showed how small differences are at the very top. I won't criticise my players. They have never played football in this set-up together," said Loew.

"But it's true that some players are not yet in top form."

Despite the absence of Messi, Argentina ran circles around the World Cup winners on their home turf in the first match for both teams since Germany's 1-0 extra-time victory in the final in Brazil.

Loew fielded only four of the starting 11 who won Germany's fourth World Cup in the warm-up match ahead of the Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland on Monday morning.

Captain Philipp Lahm, striker Miroslav Klose and defender Per Mertesacker, who all retired following the World Cup triumph, were hailed by the sell-out crowd of 51,132 while several other key players were missing through injury.

The inexperienced Germany defence could not contain di Maria in the first half but also left lots of open space for lightening counter-attacks by moving deep into Argentina's territory.

SET UP

Di Maria set up the first goal in the 20th minute with a pinpoint lob to the penalty spot where Sergio Aguero slipped away from his marker and beat Manuel Neuer with an unstoppable volley from point-blank range.

Twenty minutes later, di Maria broke free on the right near the goal-line where he lofted a cross back to Erik Lamela, standing in for the injured Messi, who smashed a fine volley past a frustrated-looking Neuer.

Central defender Federico Fernandez headed the third two minutes after the break from di Maria's free-kick before the winger made it 4-0 with a superb chip in the 50th minute.

"Di Maria is one of the best four or five players in the world, so his performance didn't surprise me," said former Barcelona boss and Argentina's new coach Gerardo Martino, adding he could have possibly made a difference had he been on the pitch in July.

"His absence there was noticeable," added Martino, looking back to the World Cup final.

Germany went into the match still aglow over their World Cup win in Brazil but were facing a rout when they fell behind 4-0.

Andre Schuerrle finally gave the big home crowd something to cheer when he got one back for Germany in the 52nd minute, tapping in after a scramble in front of Sergio Romero's goal and World Cup hero Mario Goetze made it 4-2 in the 78th minute.

Loew admitted that he might make changes to his Germany squad for the Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland.

"Some of our players are not in their best shape and others are injured. We have to classify this match and Sunday is what counts," said Loew.

"But we have to think about this match and I think tomorrow we will add some players to the squad because it was obvious how some players had problems tonight."

Loew added that he knew he would have to deal with the effects of a World Cup hangover.

"I expect some difficulties during the next six months," he mused. "It is never easy after a huge success to be ready again soon.

"We have many players who are injured or have been injured for a long time. Also, we are the world champions now and everybody is hunting us."

- Wire Services.