BRASILIA – qtr-final: Argentina 1, Belgium 0
—- Argentina ended a run of three quarter-finals defeat at the World Cup by reaching the last four after probably their most solid all-round performance of the tournament.
But victory came at a significant cost with Real Madrid forward Angel Di Maria suffering a first-half thigh muscle injury which is expected to rule him out of the rest of the finals.
This would be a major disruption to the former double World Cup-winners since Di Maria has provided the only significant high-class support for Leo Messi in an otherwise disappointing team campaign.
Di Maria set up the only goal with a pass from the right which was deflected on into the path of Gonzalo Higuain. The Napoli striker striker swivelled and hit a 20m volley which took keeper Thibaut Courtois by surprise.
After half an hour Di Maria was injured. He took a pass from Messi and shot for goal but the effort took him off balance and he was injured in falling. At first he did not feel the damage until he picked himself up and started to run and then stopped, fell, collapsed on the pitch and had to be substituted by Enzo Pérez.
Di María watched the rest of the match from the substitutes’ bench and celebrated with his team-mates on the pitch after the final whistle. However he was then taken for a hospital check before coach Alejandro Sabella confirmed that the player was lost to the World Cup.
Even without Di Maria Argentina rarely looked in danger although Belgium’s so-called ‘golden generation’ pressed forward with ever greater urgency the longer the match continued.
However the Red Devils were so short of ideas in attack they had to push centre-back Danel Van Buyten forward in the closing stages. Even route one football failed to disturb Argentina’s determination to reach a semi-final which, as it turned out, will be against Holland . . . whom Argentina defeated in the 1978 final when they won the World Cup for the first time.