Argentina hopeful Di Maria, De Paul fit for World Cup quarter-final




 

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said Thursday he was optimistic Angel Di Maria and Rodrigo De Paul will be available for their World Cup quarter-final against the Netherlands.

Di Maria missed the last-16 win over Australia because of injury and there are concerns over the fitness of midfielder De Paul, who has played every minute of the tournament in Qatar.

"They're doing well. We're going to see them in training today to decide the line-up," said Scaloni, visibly displeased by reports that De Paul is nursing a hamstring issue.

"Yesterday we trained behind closed doors and I don't know where this information comes from," he bristled.

"The truth is always that after a match there are players who train separately or do half the session based on the number of minutes played.

"Today we will make the decision on how we want to approach the match. That is the most important thing."

Argentina face the Netherlands on Friday in a repeat of their 2014 semi-final clash in Brazil, where the South Americans won on penalties following a 0-0 draw after 120 minutes.

The two countries have met five previous times at the World Cup, including in the 1978 final, which Argentina won 3-1 after extra time. Argentina have never beaten the Dutch in 90 minutes.

"They kicked penalties yesterday. They always stay on practising penalties at training," said Scaloni.

"It's all about luck when you get to a penalty shootout. I hope we don't get to that and we win the game before that."

"Football sometimes can be very beautiful and sometimes it can be cruel," he added.

The Netherlands are unbeaten in 19 games since Louis van Gaal returned for a third spell at the helm in August last year.

Van Gaal was also in charge whe the Dutch agonisingly missed out on reaching a fourth World Cup final.

Instead it was an Argentina team led by Alejandro Sabella who advanced before losing 1-0 to Germany in the final after extra time. Thursday marked two years to the day since Sabella's passing.

Sabella died in 2020 at the age of 66, less than two weeks after the death of Diego Maradona, after years of battling with cancer and heart problems.

"Today is a sad day for us. This was a huge loss for Argentina because of everything he gave to us and the values he passed on to us. I wanted to remind everyone of him," said Scaloni.

"We're going to give everything for this shirt to represent our country. When the game is over I really hope we can be happy with the result. And if not, I hope people can identify with us."

mw/rcw

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