Messi fit, yet hamstrung as Argentina face Dutch
By Ben Walsh
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Argentina take on the Netherlands in their World Cup semi-final in Sao Paulo later on Wednesday with superstar Lionel Messi partially hamstrung - despite being perfectly fit.
In rude health and having enjoyed a solid if not stellar tournament, Messi will undoubtedly be hampered by the absence of Angel Di Maria.
For it is Di Maria, missing with a thigh injury, who makes the runs that give Messi his options in midfield when receiving the ball and turning toward goal.
A microcosm of their relationship came in Argentina's quarter-final victory over Belgium.
In the 27th minute Messi received the ball just outside the center circle in his own half.
Two Belgian defenders closed him down, but he found space by feinting to his right and then moving the ball back to his left. As the defenders backpedaled frantically, Messi as if he might be contained and forced backwards.
Instead, he rolled a perfect 40-yard pass into the path of Di Maria.
His through-ball sliced slid tantalizingly close, but just beyond, the retreating defender, curling delicately across him and on to Di Maria's toes at the edge of the penalty box. Continued...