Angel Di Maria: Argentina’s underappreciated World Cup hero

Angel Di Maria: Argentina's underappreciated World Cup hero

Angel Di Maria: Look, Lionel Messi will always be the star of the 2022 World Cup.

He is Argentina’s captain, the finest player, and the guy who has carried the weight of a country for his entire career. There is no doubt that he merits both the moment and the publicity.

Spare a thought, though, for Angel Di Maria, who was Argentina’s finest player for significant stretches of the game.

The 34-year-old winger hasn’t done much in the 2022/23 season. He’s played 10 times for Juventus since signing on a free transfer from PSG, had three injuries, and received a two-match suspension for a straight red card. At the club level, his most recent goal came on his Serie A debut on August 22.

There were worries about his availability for the World Cup in the first place, and it’s apparent that Di Maria wasn’t healthy when he arrived in Qatar. He finished 90 minutes only once and didn’t even make it off the bench in the round of 16 or the semi-final. He just played eight minutes in the quarter-final against the Netherlands.

Despite the strain, Di Maria delivered one of his all-time best performances in the World Cup final.

Argentina’s penalty was won by Di Maria, who terrorised Ousmane Dembele into a disastrous performance that was fortunately cut short before halftime. Messi went up and scored from the penalty spot.

El Fideo’s attacking runs were flawless, rivalled only by Messi’s playmaking prowess. The couple were on the same wavelength with the singular purpose of leading their nation to long-awaited triumph. That should be no surprise, given they’ve been playing together since 2008. Each understands how to maximise the moves of the other.

Di Maria dominated the ball and frequently stood out more than anybody else on the field as his impact rose, particularly when he tapped home Argentina’s second goal following an incredible team play.

The floodgates practically flowed for Di Maria, whose emotions were too much for him as he processed what he was doing at the time. As he has done so frequently in his career, the veteran showed up when it counted most and drove his nation to the edge of history.

Unfortunately for Di Maria, he could not complete the task on the field. He was replaced just after the hour mark, which had to do with his fitness, and Argentina started to unravel. La Albiceleste moved into the defensive mode with Marcos Acuna in his place. They no longer had the Di Maria outlet, and a double from Kylian Mbappe almost made them pay.

Had they not had the talent that is Messi, Argentina may have possibly lost this game, and it all originated from Di Maria’s dull plod off the field.

Messi would go on to be awarded Man of the Match, as well as the Golden Ball and, ultimately, the World Cup title, and the 35-year-old earned every bit of praise he received. He was wonderful. But Di Maria was as well.

Di Maria has always been content to be a sidekick throughout his career, particularly at the international level. When you’re playing alongside the best of all time, you must embrace that moniker to succeed.

Without hesitation, Di Maria echoed Messi’s compliments, putting his long-time buddy into the forefront and assuring that the emphasis would always be on the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner.

On the other hand, Di Maria quietly engraved his name in Argentine mythology. Messi may have achieved his ultimate goal, but he did it with lots of assistance from El Fideo.