World Cup Final: Argentina
PORTO SEGURO, Brazil (AP) – Argentina head into the World Cup final today against Germany with winger Angel Di Maria in doubt because of a thigh injury. Here’s a look at Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella’s likely starters and substitutes.
Sergio Romero: The goalkeeper was Argentina’s weak link before the World Cup due to a lack of playing time at French club Monaco, but has been rock solid in Brazil. Hasn’t conceded a single goal in the knockout phase and stopped two penalties in the semi-final shootout against the Netherlands.
Pablo Zabaleta: Hard-working right back who has stepped up his game after bland performances in the group stage. Finished the semi-final with a bandage on his face after clashing with Netherlands winger Dirk Kuyt.
Martin Demichelis: Late addition to the World Cup squad and also to the starting line-up in Brazil. After watching Argentina’s first four World Cup matches from the bench, Demichelis replaced mediocre centre back Federico Fernandez in the quarter-finals, giving an immediate boost to Argentina’s defence.
Ezequiel Garay: Central defender with strong aerial game who moves into the opposite penalty area on set pieces. Cemented his place in the line-up in World Cup qualifying.
Marcos Rojo: Left back who likes to support the attack with runs down the flank and crosses into the area. Also strong in the air, and headed in the winner in Argentina’s 3-2 victory over Nigeria in the group stage.
Lucas Biglia: Entered the line-up in the quarter-finals to replace Fernando Gago, who had disappointed in the group stage. The shift has bolstered Argentina’s midfield, particularly when it comes to regaining possession.
Javier Mascherano: Tough-tackling defensive midfielder who has been one of Argentina’s best players in the World Cup, providing crucial support for the back four. Played key role against the Netherlands, stopping late attempts by Arjen Robben.
Enzo Perez: Substitute who’s likely to start in the final unless Angel Di Maria returns from injury. Did a solid job in the semi-final.
Ezequiel Lavezzi: Speedy forward who drops down to help out in midfield when Argentina are defending. The squad’s jokester, he squirted water in coach Alejandro Sabella’s face while receiving side-line instructions against Nigeria.
Gonzalo Higuain: Sidelined by an ankle injury for a month before the World Cup, the Napoli striker lacked pace and precision in the group stage. Has improved gradually and finally scored in the quarter-final against Belgium.
Lionel Messi: Argentina’s superstar captain carried the team through the group stage with four goals but has played a lesser role in the knockout phase. Completely marked out of the game against the Netherlands, he will be looking to make an impact in the final.
Maxi Rodriguez: A veteran playing his third World Cup, Rodriguez has been struggling to keep a slot in Sabella’s starting line-up. But he has a good shot and often comes in as a substitute when Argentina’s attack needs a jolt.
Angel Di Maria: With his surging runs from midfield, the Real Madrid winger was Argentina’s best player besides Messi before he picked up a thigh injury in the quarter-finals and was ruled out of the next game. Racing against the clock to be fit for the final.
Sergio Aguero: After missing two matches due to a thigh injury, Aguero returned as a substitute against the Netherlands. The Manchester City striker has failed to score in this World Cup and is likely to start on the bench against Germany.