Jul 8, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT
Argentina will be without Real Madrid star Angel di Maria for their semifinal showdown against the Netherlands on Wednesday and the rest of the World Cup following his injury vs. Belgium in the quarterfinal.
Fear not, fans of the Albiceleste, there are more than a few players who can make up for Di Maria’s absence.
According to our pals over at Soccerly, the six players below can all come in for Di Maria and help Argentina reach its first World Cup final since 1990. Lionel Messi will likely be the key, as always, for Argentina to get past the Dutch and set up a final vs. either Brazil or Germany at the Maracana on Sunday.
However let’s not overlook Di Maria’s impact.
The man who sparked Real Madrid into life and almost single-handedly won them the UEFA Champions League title back in May also scored the game-winner deep into extra time against Switzerland in Argentina’s round of 16 win. He comes up clutch when it matters and the slim left winger will be sorely missed by manager Alejandro Sabella.
Below Soccerly lists the six players who can come in for Di Maria against Holland. Who should get the nod?
It was Perez who came on when Di Maria injured himself against Belgium in the quarter-finals and the 28-year-old midfielder is the favourite to reprise the role against Holland. While he possesses neither Di Maria’s speed nor audacity with the ball, he is a technically accomplished player who enjoyed a fine 2013-14 campaign with Benfica, being elected Portugal’s Player of the Year. Perez also benefits from Sabella’s trust, having spent two years playing under him at Estudiantes, where the two men enjoyed Copa Libertadores success in 2009.
Rodriguez has not played since being taken off at half-time of Argentina’s opening game, a 2-1 win over Bosnia-Hercegovina in Rio de Janeiro. But the 33-year-old former Liverpool player is the most experienced of Di Maria’s potential replacements and offers defensive industry as well as guile on either flank. The Newell’s Old Boys player also possesses World Cup pedigree, having scored three goals — including a sensational match-winning volley against Mexico — at the 2006 tournament in Germany. He also played at the 2010 competition in South Africa.
A creative, left-footed midfielder, 26-year-old Alvarez is the closest thing Sabella has to a like-for-like replacement for Di Maria, but he has played for only 27 minutes at the tournament so far, as a substitute in the 3-2 win over Nigeria. The Inter Milan playmaker is not renowned for his physical robustness, but his inclusion would give Argentina more natural width in midfield.
Gago was a virtual ever-present for Argentina in qualifying, but having been brought back into the team after starting the opener against Bosnia on the bench, he was dropped for the quarter-final win over Belgium. With Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia expected to start, Gago’s inclusion would leave Argentina with precious little attacking dynamism in central midfield, although they would look formidable defensively. The Boca Juniors midfielder’s poor form in Brazil counts again him.
The left-field choice. Celta Vigo winger Fernandez, 28, has not yet made it onto the pitch in Brazil and has only nine caps to his name. But as a defensive-minded player, he would offer Argentina protection against the threat posed by Holland’s dangerous left-wing-back Daley Blind.
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