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Friday 20 October 2017

Higuain claims he never doubted he would find the net

Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain. Picture credit: AP Photo/ Martin Meissner
Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain. Picture credit: AP Photo/ Martin Meissner

GONZALO HIGUAIN may be able to take some of the burden off Lionel Messi's shoulders after his man-of-the-match performance saw Argentina through to their first World Cup semi-final for 24 years.

Higuain played his best match of the tournament in the 1-0 quarter-final win over Belgium - scoring the goal, hitting the crossbar and threatening on a number of other occasions.

It was a timely response, especially as some critics such as Diego Maradona had been questioning his value to the team and highlighting the fact the Napoli striker had yet to score.

Higuain had been a doubt for the tournament as a whole after picking up an ankle injury playing club football in Italy.

The 26-year-old said: "It's not been an easy situation for me. I very nearly didn't make it to the World Cup at all, but fortunately everything has worked out and I've been able to get that goal.

Answer

"People been asking me since the first day of the tournament when the goal was going to come and I've always given them the same answer: 'I'm working on it'.

"But I wasn't getting desperate - I knew I was going to get a goal sooner or later.

"Obviously I'm very happy, especially with this being such a historically important win for Argentina."

Higuain's performance against Belgium showed he has suffered no ill-effects from the injury, not least with one fabulous run from the halfway line which saw him nutmeg Vincent Kompany before striking a fierce shot which clipped the crossbar.

That sort of confident display will be vital for the semi-final against the Netherlands in Sao Paulo on Wednesday - especially if Messi continues to play in a deeper, midfield role. Messi was still hugely effective, but he admitted the extra running came at a cost.

"It was a different position and I had to run more than usual so I was a little tired, but we are playing as a team," the Barcelona forward said.

"We ran more than ever, even if we didn't create as much as in the other matches.

"The important thing is that we have reached our first goal - to be among the final four.

Focus

"Now we want even more. We have enjoyed what we have done so far, but let's focus now on what's coming - and we are prepared."

One step away from a potential World Cup final, Argentina will be hoping for Angel Di Maria to recover from a thigh injury.

The Real Madrid winger strained the back of his right thigh against Belgium, and was to undergoing medical tests to discover the extent of the injury.

Losing Di Maria would be a big blow for Argentina. Besides Messi, he's been Argentina's most influential player in Brazil.

Di Maria scored the extra-time winner against Switzerland in the second round and set up Higuain's goal against Belgium on Saturday.

"He's a key player in this project," Higuain said of Di Maria. "We hope that he will be ready as soon as possible because we know what he does for the team."

Coach Alejandro Sabella called Di Maria "vital" to Argentina, already missing striker Sergio Aguero due to injury.

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