Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni believes FIFA scheduling may have handed the Socceroos a significant advantage ahead of their World Cup knockout match with Juventus star Angel Di Maria in serious doubt.
Di Maria was subbed out of the La Albiceleste’s win over Poland and remains touch and go to play against Australia in a huge boost for Australia’s chances of reaching the quarter finals for the first time in history.
Scaloni initially said the subbing of the Juventus superstar was just a precaution after he complained of discomfort in his thigh.
Juventus and Argentina star Angel di Maria will be a huge out if the superstar cannot overcome a thigh injury to play against the Socceroos
Argentina media organisation TyC Sports reports that Di Maria had a medical examination the next morning which found no signs of a muscle injury.
The ex-PSG star has been diagnosed with a left thigh contracture, according to reports. It remains unclear whether he will be available for Saturday’s Round of 16 match against Australia.
Injuries have plagued Di Maria this season, resulting in him playing just 10 games for the Old Lady and missing 12.
Di Maria goes down with an injury during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group C match between Poland and Argentina
Some reports suggest that di Maria could have a contracture which would mean the end of his World Cup.
‘You know more than I do,’ Scaloni said when asked by media about the injury.
‘I didn’t know Di Maria had a contracture. He felt some discomfort, but contracture? That’s new. You have more information than I do.
Whatever the injury may be, Scaloni said the fact Australia drew the earlier game when both sides had to play on the same night played into the Socceroo’s hands.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni will be sweating on the fitness of star player Angel di Maria for the knockout stage match against Australia
‘Even though it might seem absurd, Australia played at 6pm in second and we played at 10pm in first,’ he said.
‘We went to bed at 4am and that has an impact, especially if you have a game in 48 hours.
‘So yesterday it was all about recovery and being with the family and today is when we will have a clear picture on Di Maria… we hope he will be fine and will be able to play but I can’t tell you at the moment because we don’t have a clear picture.’
Australia are rank underdogs in just their second knockout stage match in history with bookies having them at odds as long as 17-1,
But Scaloni was quick to put any favouritism tags to bed and said the Socceroos had earned their place in the final 16 and would be a dangerous proposition.
‘Whether [Australia] are inferior or not, we need to see that. I don’t fully agree,’ he said.
‘They are a good team, and this is football. It’s 11 versus 11, and this is the reality.
Craig Goodwin marks up on Christian Eriksen of Denmark in the Socceroo’s 1-0 win over the Danes in Group D that sealed their place in the final 16
‘We need to leave aside the ‘favourites’ tag and play the game. Our idea is to play like in the last games.
‘As we’ve been saying all along, we will break our backs on the pitch in this World Cup. We will be there to compete.
‘We know how difficult this World Cup is. This is football, we’ve seen this yesterday and in previous games. For me, these are not surprises.
‘When we think about big national teams, we think they should always be in the next phase, but sometimes that does not occur. Things get turned around. That’s what happens in football.’
Leckie celebrates scoring his team’s first goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group D football match between Australia and Denmark at the Al-Janoub Stadium
While Argentina boast the likes of the game’s best player in Lionel Messi up front, he said the Socceroo’s biggest threat would come from their own attacking options in Craig Goodwin and Mathew Leckie who had made an impression.
‘Yes they have good players in the right wing, the forwards, the midfielders with wide experience,’ Scaloni said.
‘They are playing in high levels and especially they are a team. That’s what I can say and when you are facing a team it is always difficult and by team I mean, a national team with players who know what they want and that is always difficult.’