During Argentina's 1-0 victory over Belgium in the quarterfinals, midfielder Angel Di Maria suffered a thigh injury in the 33rd minute. The Real Madrid star, who scored Argentina's lone goal in a 1-0 Round of 16 victory over Switzerland, has been ruled out for the semifinal match versus the Netherlands.
Di Maria's injury shifts a load on former Real Madrid teammate Gonzalo Higuain to help Lionel Messi create offense. As a bright spot for Argentina, Higuain may be getting hot at the right time.
The Napoli striker scored the only goal against Belgium -- his first tally in five World Cup matches. In the Group Stage, Argentina relied heavily on Lionel Messi to produce goal-scoring opportunities. The three-time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner and one-time FIFA World Player of the Year Winner scored four of Argentina's six goals in Argentina's first three games (one of the other two was an own goal).
The Belgium match was the Argentina's first this World Cup that Messi did not have a goal or an assist credited to him. It was Higuain who became the playmaker.
Higuain notched four goals in the 2010 World Cup, so it may have only been a matter of time before he hit his stride. In South Africa, Higuain had a group stage hat trick in a 4-1 win over South Korea. He has 21 goals and 11 assists in 41 career international appearances.
The 2014 Argentina team has drawn numerous comparisons to the 1986 World Cup championship team. Messi is compared to Diego Maradona, who led the 1986 team with five goals and five assists. Higuain is compared to Maradona's right-hand man Jorge Valdano. Valdano scored four goals for Argentina in 1986. However, he failed to become a regular international contributor after the World Cup.
Higuain has battled an ankle injury over the last month, which contributed to struggles at the end of Napoli’s season in Italy's Serie A. Despite the health issues, he remains optimistic.
“I had faith in my qualities, I’m already thinking about the semifinal. We have two matches left to make history," Higuain says.
"I wasn't getting desperate about scoring because I knew I was going to get a goal sooner or later," Higuain told Sky Sports about his first goal.
Argentina’s next match is against the vaunted attack of the Netherlands. The Netherlands is looking to reach back-to-back World Cup Finals. Argentina has reached its first semifinal since 1990.
Of course, Argentina has not won the World Cup since 1986 when Maradona and Valdano led "The White and Blue Sky." Along with Messi, Higuain will need to turn up his game in the final two matches.
If Higuain plays at his peak, Argentina may have a third World Cup title.
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