Ángel Di María, from almost ending his cycle with Argentina to scoring the Copa America winner

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Ángel Di María’s story with the national team can be compared with any of the stories written by the greats. It has everything: drama, conflict, emotion, and a fantastic ending; one which hopefully lasts a couple of more years.

His injuries in key moments were his biggest downfall with Argentina. As several players have said over time, injuries are perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a footballer since it is something that, most of the time, cannot be controlled. The impotence that the player feels in those moments is huge.

“Fideo” missed the 2014 Brazil World cup final due to a tear in his right thigh. He had to be replaced in the first half of the quarterfinal match vs. Belgium, and it came down to the wire on whether or not he would play the final vs. Germany. It was definitely a risk for him to play with so little time of recovery but, as he stated some time after the final, it was going to be worth it. This is what he said to the Argentina physical trainers the morning of the final:

“If I get injured again, let me keep getting injured. I don’t care. I just want to be there and play.”

It was that same morning when he received a letter from his club, Real Madrid, ordering him not to play. Ángel ripped that letter without even reading it, and told the physical trainers it was going to be his decision whether he plays or not. There, he went to talk with coach
Alejandro Sabella.

This is what Di María wrote in an article for Player’s Tribune about that conversation with the Argentina coach, hours before the game of their lives:

“I sincerely wanted to play that day even if it ended my career. But I also didn’t want to make things complicated for our team. So I woke up early that morning and went to see our manager, Mr. Sabella. We had a very close relationship, so if I told him that I wanted to start, I knew that he would feel the pressure to put me in. I told him sincerely, with my hand on my heart, that he should put in the player that he felt he had to put in.

“I said, “If it’s me, it’s me. If it’s another, then it’s another. I just want to win the World Cup. If you call on me, I will play until I break.”

“And then I started crying. I couldn’t help it. The moment had overwhelmed me.”

Enzo Pérez finally played in his place and, even though Di María exercised his leg right before the game and during halftime, he did not play a single minute in the final that ended with Germany beating 1-0 Argentina, in extra time. Later, Di María would state that that was “the worst day of his life.”

Incredibly, that was just the beginning of Di María’s bad luck with the injuries.

During the 2015 Copa America final in Chile against the hosts, Ángel suffered a muscle injury after a 70-meter run in the 24th minute of the first half. He then had to be replaced as Argentina would go to lose that final vs. Chile through the penalty shootout.

At the 2016 Copa America in the United States, he suffered another muscle injury during the second group stage game, a 5-0 win vs. Panama. This came after having a great performance during the opener vs. Chile, where he scored and assisted.

Despite missing all the Cup matches from then on, it seemed that he was going to be able to play the final. A couple of days before the big game, again vs. Chile, he re-felt the injury but still played in Argentina’s third consecutive final. Di María started the match but was visibly hurt. One more time, the same story:
Chile beat Argentina on penalties.

This continuation of getting injured made him seek professional psychological help. Although he started working with a psychologist during the 2014 Brazil World Cup qualifiers because the pressure of playing with the national team at that time was “huge,” he needed it even more
after the three lost finals.

Many Argentina fans and journalists destroyed that generation of footballers who, three times were on the verge of lifting the trophy. Ángel Di María was probably one of the most punished along with Gonzalo Higuaín and Fernando Gago. Living in the era of fast
communication, where everything spreads with the speed of social media, clearly did not help to appease the fire.

“The criticisms and memes that come out, even if it seems like it wouldn’t hurt you, it hurts you a lot and makes you think a lot. One of the reasons why sometimes I think or thought of stop trying is that.”

As with other interviews with players of that generation, Di María looked sad when he talked about what he had to experience with the national team despite reaching three consecutive finals. However, during an interview with ESPN F90 in September of 2020, Ángel made it clear that he would continue to seek revenge with Argentina:

“I have many friends that tell me to stay in Paris, have a coffee in front of the Eiffel Tower. I tell them that I prefer to go to Argentina and have 45 million people insult me and I’ll defend the Argentina shirt.”

But Di María also had people who were against him from his beginnings with the national team. If you don’t remember, listen to what Diego Maradona said while he was Argentina’s coach in 2010:

“Di María was resisted (against). Remember the game with Uruguay. They all wanted me to put another player in that position, and I told the lad (Di María): I’ll die with you.”

In the last couple of years, especially after the 2016 Copa America, the fans and the media began to ask for a change in the Argentina squad, which included Di María, who was already in his 30’s, being out. Despite playing at a high level at Paris Saint-Germain, most of the Argentina fans thought Ángel should not be call anymore for the national team.

Still, “Fideo” maintained his good permances at PSG, playing alongside stars like Kylian Mbappé and Neymar, and was called by all the Argentina coaches. Although he was not always a starter, he ended up playing many minutes with the national team.

Even in the last Copa America, the 2021 edition in Brazil, he was not a starter from the beginning. Di María fought for a spot in the starting eleven, which he only achieved in two of the seven Copa America matches. Nicolás González was coach Lionel Scaloni’s favorite in the left-wing position. However, in the most important match of the tournament, the final against Brazil, Scaloni started with Di María instead of Nico González.

In the end, Ángel Di María would go on to score the winning goal in the 1-0 win vs. Brazil, at the Maracanã, in the 2021 Copa America final. His words speaking with his family, in tears, after the game, summarizes how big was his desire of lifting a trophy with Argentina, how much he loves his country, and how much he fought for it:

“We made it. I love you so much. Thanks for always supporting me. I love you. Did you see it? Someday the wall was going to break. The wall finally broke. I got hit many times, but I kept coming here. I never gave up, dad, as you taught me. I was always there.”

As he said several times, and we can see it clearly in the previous video, the support of his family was extremely important for this outcome. Here, we can see the emotional reunion of Ángel with his daughters and his wife, after winning the Copa America:

Di María, now more than ever, earned being called “the player of the important goals” with the Argentina national team:

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics final, he scored the only goal in the 1-0 vs. Nigeria, finishing with a chip over the opponent’s goalkeeper.

At the 2014 Brazil World Cup round of 16, he scored the winning goal vs. Switzerland, with 3 minutes left in extra time.

He also scored against France, at the 2018 World Cup round of 16 in Russia, with a fantastic shot outside the box that gave hope to the Argentina fans.

And of course, his recent winner in the 1-0 vs. Brazil, at the 2021 Copa America in Brazil.

Lionel Messi’s post on his Instagram account of “The old guard”, with Sergio Aguero, Nicolás Otamendi, Ángel Di María, and himself, somehow symbolizes the fight of that generation of players that reached three finals and could not get the title. This trophy is for them too.

As a way to immortalize the triumph, and all that it meant, Ángel got tattooed the Copa America on the thigh of his left leg. It will be an indelible memory for him, as well as for all the Argentina fans.

24 Comments

  1. Otamendi can play as starter in 2022 WC there is energy in him. Whether he performs good or bad his energy level is always high as he is never injured so no doubt he will be present in WC squad.
    Juan Foyth should be called he is best option for RB even he can play at CB. I hope he performs well at Villarreal this season and gets selected in WC squad.

  2. Scaloni should use the artemio franchi trophy as his womb of producing the next suitable Argentine stars for next year’s World Cup. This is the perfect opportunity for him to call the uncalled and give minutes to those who deserved to be in the lineup more than ever.

    Well, it’s envious to lose a trophy against a European champion but again, nothing is bigger than the world cup. Just as how Brazil used this Copa as a testing ground for WC 2022, Argentina should do the same with the upcoming game against Italy(if it takes place). And there’s no finer path to achieve the fluidity of a team than playing these new seeds against a tough European champion to see and detect where the fault lies and where we are invincible.

    I definitely believe that a lot will happen before we go to qatar next year. Lots of changes and hopefully a sudden emergence of a whole new crop of emerging youngsters. Or even late bloomers like de Paul, emi and papu. You never know what happens.

  3. Players like zabellos, Almada, de la Vega, palacios, barco and gaich should be called up as early as possible. Their progress is ours calmness as we can be sure that we’re building a future that can reach its peak by the time 2026 world cup comes. If they’re called then they will have the opportunity to acclimatize themselves with the pressure, style and expectations of senior level. And that would help them to cope at various levels when they actually fall prey of the bad phase or more likely, draught phase.

    Julian Alvarez, balerdi, mac allister, Perez and Vargas had already had some minor stints with the NT, so now it’s the perfect time for the upcoming youngsters to get the heat of what it’s like to play for Argentina when you’re playing a serious competition.

    Also, we hope that by 2026 Romero, luna, farias, Gonzalo sosa, Ramos Mingo, Soule and forgotten wonderkid leonel coira would blossom and secure the future of the NT.
    I know it’s a long time and I’m being too early to make such bold claims but I do also believe that Messi won’t be stopping himself from playing the WC 2026, at least not after this Copa America triumph. I see he’s has grown even more hungrier than ever and when you get that inspired you’re bound to do anything to suit yourself to play in such old age. It happens.

    I can sense that Argentina will again win a tournament but I don’t know what, it could be another Copa America or well, it might be the most coveted prize, that’s the World Cup.

    Anything can happen.

  4. [Mission WC 2022: Long Post Alert]

    After Copa now our eye should be on world cup but to give a realistic try for World Cup Plenty of areas need to be sorted.

    Fitness: Our biggest concern is fitness. After 90 minutes our players were barely able to walk and unless we improve fitness we will not be able to compete against top European teams.

    Goal-keeper: Finally our post in safe hands. Emi will be definitely our first choice goal keeper but we need back up plan as well. No to Armani hence forth.

    Defense:

    – CB: Romero in defense is very good, what a find! His calmness reminded me Samual in his best years. But we need to find his partner in defense. Otamendi cannot play in 2022 as a starter, Pezulla is too soft. I will look forward for Lisandro Martinez (but too short for CB) and Lucas Quarta this season. Hope Romero will find his defensive pair soon.

    – Right Back: Molina or Montiel are very young and relatively slow for fullback position and unfortunately not even close to top qulity like Zabaleta. Although Montiel was a surprise in final and played like a beast but hope he will only grow for here. Also we cannot throw-away Juan Foyth after Colombia match. He should be given another chance and can be considered as Center back also, so should be part of the plan.

    – Left back: Acuna is our first choice as Tagliafico is really disappointing. I had high hope on him but he failed after 1 or 2 good season. But Acuna also make-shift left back and we need genuine one. I want Scaloni to try to few more options like Facundo Medina.

    Midfield:

    – Lo Celso should work in fitness. If your main man in midfield can last only 1 half then how can one trust him for longer time? No doubt about his quality but hope he will improve his fitness level and will have a great season. He is key in our midfield but should be good enough to play for 120 minutes.

    – Pardes is too soft as Defensive midfielder, I will pick Gudio ahead of him in DFM position. I will prefer a Gudio-Pardes-RDP midfield. But they all need to grow a lot to be a part of World Cup winning team. only RDP is right there. As a backup Palacios is good.

    Attack:

    Center forward – Lautaro will definitely will lead the line with Messi but we need another striker who is very good in air. Good that Lautaro found his form back in the later stage of Copa and scored important goals but he missed several sitters that we cannot aford to miss in World Cup. As of now I can think of Alario [I don’t think Icardi has any place in the team] but even Alario is far from world class. I hope Gaich will have a great season and establish himself.

    Winger – Messi/Di Maria will hold right wing position but we need an upgrade over Nico. Ocampos started promising but losing his way. Unfortunately we have too many quality players in right Messi/Di Maria/Angel Correa but not many in left. We need a Lavezzi kind of player in that position, I had high hope on Pavon but he failed to prove his worth but hope Pavan will improve. Papu played his part well in Copa but I don’t think he will be part of WC 2022. Nico must find his form soon.

    Scaloni: Scaloni did well so far to build this team and bringing the winning mentality back in the team but some improvements are still required.

    – He must need to change his mentality of holding 1 goal lead in every match. You cannot win every matches like this way. We cannot take too much risk early but we will not be able to defend entire match like this way especially when our defense is not the finest. We allowed teams like Ecuador, Chile, Colombia to dominate us after early goal and we might suffer if this continues. Having said that no one can take the credit away from him for winning us Copa but we might pay big-time for such mentality.

    – Now team selection. He has to be brave in selecting team. Can’t believe he was selecting Armani matches after matches, even though we have a beast like Emi. Also I get nervous because of his substitutions, never convincing. Even in final, had Brazil equalized, there were no chance to bounce back in extra time.

    – He needs to build a core team and for that it’s important is to bring good set of players, who are playing at top level. Messi, RDP, Emi, Romero is not enough as we are just an year away from world cup. We need options in all places.

    Finally, I believe Dybala should be included now if his focus remains on football. If Kun can why not Dybala? After suffering from Covid twice then injuries marred his season but he was Seria A Player of the season even a season back. he has potential. Messi will be 35+ in 2022, World Cup will be in Qatar, how he will be able to play for 90 minutes? We must rest Messi and who is better than Dybala to play his his position? Even when we are chasing we need quality and I am sure Dybala will be able to add something there. Hope he will work on his discipline and focus on football.

    ..

    • I agree with most of you stuff… But midfield needs to be Lo Celso Guido and De Paul…
      Yes I know GLC has fitness issues but he’s way ahead of Paredes as starter. Paredes can replace him in Min 50 – 60. Lo Celso needs to work on his fitness…
      If it wasn’t for our strikers Lo Celso would have had at least 3 Assists.

      The main problem is Left Wing. We need to figure that out

  5. Great tournament for angel. scaloni got couple things right to maximize his impact.
    playing him consistently on the right where he has been the most effective in his later club years- we remember the 2019 colombia game or the brazil semi final where he was completely lost on the left side.
    and being able to manage his minutes properly as a super sub for the majority of the time before goin all in during the final. His ankle was so close to giving out after the paredes long ball under a starters load. We saw the pics of his giant hematoma after the game.

  6. Many other great players from the same generation were ridiculed and hated with unexplained passion here on mundo. and get attacked when defending them.
    Some might even hated the fact when fedeo scored. there was not the cheers i usually see here when Argentina scores.
    RESPECT IS A GOOD THING FOR A TRUE FAN

  7. After him there are many Argentina produce and some clearly copy his game. The likes of Cristian Espinoza, Pavon, Ocampos, and Nico Gonzales were influenced by Di Maria’s game. Man the day Messi and Di Maria retire will be really sad. Hope they both will retire with a world cup trophy.

    • We are a very strong contender for the next world cup as European teams are on the downfall. If Messi and Dimaria can maintain their form and Scaloni finds some solid replacements for couple positions, we are a very hard team to beat!!

      Also Dimaria’s club form was never questioned but he was unable to bring that momentum to National side. But in the last copa we saw Dimaria finally displaying his overdue club form for his country!!

  8. With him we would have won the WC in 14. He is creative, draws defenders away from Messi and has awesome moves. Sure, he loses possession a lot, but at least he tries and not pass it wide or backwards. Hopefully he has some skin left for another cup come December 22 😉

  9. Maybe this will inspire a player like Kun to do something special with ARG whenever he gets a chance to make up for all the lost time and chances.
    Remember the spectacular goal Di Maria scored against France and I said to myself, “why cant he do that more often?!!” unfortunately his goal was nullified by Pavard’s luckyass-fluke of a goal and the rest was history :/)

  10. “I have many friends that tell me to stay in Paris, have a coffee in front of the Eiffel Tower. I tell them that I prefer to go to Argentina and have 45 million people insult me and I’ll defend the Argentina shirt.”

    Not only he is the most hated player in Argentina. He has been the most hated player here in Mundo Albiceleste since Seba Garcia time (the first owner of the site) when Di Maria was still very young. AND all his “fans” are the most hated here too!

    I have been one of his number one defenders here and I also got insulted a lot from others here.

    The only reason I have been defending him is because I disagree that he is a headless chicken player. I think he is a pure quality. Di Maria is one of those “oh no no no no yes yes yes yeeess player” in that he always tries to create a danger. By doing that he probably misplaced his pass many times (thats why his passing accuracy is low) but when he succeeds, he will have an assist or at least create a golden chance for his team. Thats to answer why his assist ratio is among the world best. The game against Switzerland highlighted his true ability. He misplaced A LOT of of passes in that game but it was him who finally scored. He needs a coach who totally trusts him to be at his best. Tuchel, Ancelotti, and Sabella were huge fans of him thats why he was really good when playing for them.

    Don’t forget that this guy also played in Copa America 2016 right when his grandma died and he chose to play for Argentina who won 2-1 due to his goal and his assist.

    When he scored that Brazil goal, I am just finally happy that those haters finally can eat their own shoot.

    Lemme be the one who says it first, he WILL score another crucial goal in the World Cup next year….

    Go ahead hate me for this.