World Cup Player Profile: Angel Di Maria

April 7th, 2010 by Argentina Fan Leave a reply »

Every four years the World Cup comes around, and with it new superstars are born. Although this has become increasingly difficult in the age of "YouTube" and unlimited television coverage, we still had the likes of Franck Ribery, relatively unknown outside of France prior to Germany 2006, who burst onto the scene as the young phenom on an aging French side that reached the final.

Four years later, Ribery is a global star after making a big money move to Bayern Munchen and has been sought after by the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid. 

If there is a player who can make a similar impact in 2010, it is Argentina's flying winger Angel Di Maria.

Although Di Maria has certainly not come from obscurity, his name is hardly mentioned when people discusss the Argentine team, especially with the likes of Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez, and of course coach Diego Maradona grabbing the headlines. 

To fans in Rosario (a city of over a million people 300 kilometers northwest of Buenos Aires), Di Maria has hardly the next big thing: he has already made it. 

In 2005, at the age of just 17 he made his debut for local club, and the team he supports, Rosario Central.

Two years later, Di Maria was part of the Argentina squad that won the 2007 Youth World Cup in Canada, scoring three goals along the way. With the international success came the move abroad to Benfica of Portugal for €6 million after just 35 games (6 goals) in the Argentine first division.

To fans outside of Argentina, "El Flaco" announced his name on the world stage at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. On a side with the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, and Javier Mascherano, Di Maria was an unexpected hero but settled perfectly into coach Sergio Batista's 4-2-3-1 system.

In extra time of Argentina's match against the Netherlands, Angelito picked up a pass from Messi before scoring the winner and booking Argenitna, the pre-tournament favorites, a spot in the semifinal. 

After thrashing archrivals Brazil, Argentina moved onto the final to face Nigeria, where the Messi and Di Maria combination was again on display. The Barcelona star slipped Angel free on goal and rather than attempting to round the goalkeeper, the Benfica man cooly lobbed him giving Argentina their second consecutive Olympic gold medal in football.

Olympic success brought about a debut for the full national team (September 6, 2020 against Paraguay) and interest from bigger European clubs, but their was the feeling it was all coming a bit too fast. 

Benfica again failed to win the Portuguese League in 2008-2009 (although they did manage to lift the League Cup), and Di Maria was sent off for a violent kick on a Bolivian player during Argentina's historic 6-1 defeat in La Paz, earning himself a four match ban.

Since his moment of madness in the altitude of La Paz, Di Maria seems to have grown up on and off the field, and finally reached his full potential. It is not to say that Di Maria was underachieving previously, but during the 2009-2010 season, Di Maria became the catalyst for both Argentina and Benfica.

With Argentina in dire straights during World Cup Qualification, Maradona kept his faith in Di Maria, handing him a recall and two starts in the pivotal victores over Peru and Uruguay. 

His calm performances in the two biggest games of his young career all but booked his plane ticket to South Africa and a place in Maradona's first team.

For Benfica, the flying winger consistently tantalized right backs in Portugal and in Europe. After player an integral role in Benfica's 5-0 route of Everton in the Europa League, Angelito's name was suddenly linked with all of the biggest clubs in the world, particularly in England. 

Later in the Europa League, he became a "youtube" legend by scoring a sensational goal via "rabona" against AEK Athens.

With Benfica now on the verge of knocking out Liverpool in the quarterfinals of the Europa League, holding a comfortable lead over Sporting Braga in the Portuguese League, and having already won the Portuguese League Cup for the second consecutive season, Angel's current season could only get better with an Argentine triumph in South Africa.

Should Maradona persist with the counterattacking style that earned his team a 1-0 victory against Germany in Munich last month, it is likely that Di Maria could even play a bigger role than Messi at the finals.

That day in early March, it was Di Maria's brilliant pass that sprung Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain into the clear to score the game's only goal, but El Flaco did much more, causing havoc every time he touched the ball and striking the cross bar after a neat exchange with Higuain on the edge of the box. 

With a firm understanding already in place with Messi following the Olympic triumph, Di Maria seems to finding a similar comfort level with Higuain. 

During World Cup preparation, it will be imperative that Angel and Juan Sebastian Veron continue to improve their on field relationship. 

As the BBC's Tim Vickery eloquently pointed out, Di Maria is a speeding player who loves the ball played in front of him so he can run into space and at defenders (as seen in his Olympic gold medal-winning goal), the sort of pass that Veron has made a career of during his time in Europe and now with Estudiantes and winger Jose Sosa. 

When opposing defenses suck down on La Liga's top two scorers Messi and Higuain, space should open up for Di Maria to be Argentina's World Cup hero. 

This story was originally syndicated from Bleacher Report - Front Page.
Read the original Article Here

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