With their star forward ruled out of tomorrow's second semi-final against the Dutch, Argentina pin their hopes on strikers Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain
Sao Paulo: Argentina approach their first semi-final since 1990 having won all their games by one goal margins and with Lionel Messi having scored four of their goals.
Argentina's Angel di Maria is grounded following an injury during the quarter-final against Belgium at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia recently. Pic/Getty Images
However, the loss of Angel di Maria is an enormous blow to them as he has been impressive in all their games and scored the only goal in their last 16 clash with Switzerland which ironically was seen as his least effective performance.
Di Maria limped off the field in the first half of Argentina's quarter-final win over Belgium after straining a muscle in the back of his right thigh. Team doctor Daniel Martinez on Sunday said tests showed it was a "first-degree" strain — the mildest kind but added that Di Maria wouldn't be fit to play the Dutch.
Aguero fit again
On the plus side, Argentina say that striker Sergio Aguero is fit to return after a leg muscle problem ruled him out of the match with Switzerland. Martinez said Aguero, who sustained a similar injury 10 days ago, had recovered in an "excellent" way.
Argentine forwards Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain
Argentine hardman midfielder Javier Mascherano said it was a blow to lose di Maria but the sudden return to form of Gonzalo Higuain, who scored the only goal in Saturday's 1-0 win over Belgium, could compensate for that.
"Gonzalo being more involved in the game means that with him and Leo (Messi) taking more of the possession it allows us to breathe a little more," said Mascherano.
Besides scoring the extra-time winner against Switzerland in the second round, Di Maria had also set up Gonzalo Higuain's winning goal in the first half against Belgium on Saturday.
"He's a key player in this project," Higuain said of Di Maria.
Sabella made two key changes to the lineup against Belgium, fielding Manchester City defender Martin Demichelis for the first time in Brazil, and having Lucas Biglia replace Fernando Gago in the midfield.
The moves bolstered Argentina's defence, with Biglia and Javier Mascherano dropping back to help protect the early lead.
With left back Marcos Rojo returning from suspension Argentina's defense should be in even better shape for the semi-final against the German giants. However, their attack is bound to suffer without Di Maria.