Argentina revealed its intentions with a huge 3-0 victory over Croatia in the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup, and it will face France in the final on Sunday, with almost full ranks, after the return of two players from suspension and the recovery of Angel Di Maria from injury.
Defenders Gonzalo Montiel and Marcos Acuña missed the semi-final due to suspensions.
Left-back Acuña was Argentina’s biggest loss in the Croatia match, as he was an important part of coach Lionel Scaloni’s squad during the tournament, after he participated in five matches and started four times as a starter.
He was arguably one of Argentina’s best players in the quarter-final against the Netherlands, winning nine duels from 13, completing 100 percent of his dribbling and winning a penalty from which Lionel Messi scored the team’s second goal.
And it could be decisive if Argentina want to control this side of the field, as France has Ousmane Dembele, who gives a great performance.
Montiel is considered a substitute player, but he was decisive in the victory over the Netherlands, scoring in the penalty shootout, which Argentina won 4-3.
The third piece of the puzzle that could hold the key to success against France will be midfielder Di Maria, who was left on the bench for the entirety of the Croatia game after Argentina took the lead in the first half.
Di Maria, who suffered a thigh injury in the group stage match against Poland, has played just nine minutes in Argentina’s last three matches, however, he is expected to be fit and ready for the final.
The 34-year-old was Argentina’s champion in last year’s Copa America final against arch-rivals Brazil, scoring the goal that gave his country its first major trophy in 28 years.
Di Maria and Messi are the only Argentine pair from the squad that lost the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil.
Di Maria, who missed that match more than eight years ago through injury, will get a second chance at the world’s highest award and should be in shape for the final as Argentina bid for their third World Cup title.