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It may not have been pretty, it may not have been stylish, but it certainly was deserved. Argentina is in the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1990, when Lionel Messi was still only a 3-year-old toddler.
Argentina-Belgium Grades: Higuaín steals the show
07/05/2014
 
BRASILIA, BRAZIL - JULY 05:  Gonzalo Higuain of Argentina (2nd L) celebrates scoring his team's f...

It may not have been pretty, it may not have been stylish, but it certainly was deserved. Argentina is in the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1990, when Lionel Messi was still only a 3-year-old toddler.


Argentina looked like a real, cohesive, sacrificed team for the first time in the entire tournament and that showed through a solid performance during which 14 players (the starting 11 and the three substitutes) banded together for one single, historic goal.


There was no single bad performance for Argentina on Saturday afternoon, and that is reflected in the grades below (as always, from 0 to 10)...

Sergio Romero: 7.


Romero had his third shutout of the World Cup, his second consecutive one in the knockout stage, and had a couple of key saves in each half. First, deflecting a dangerous shot by De Bruyne in the 25th minute and then stopping what could have been an own goal by Garay in the 65th.

Pablo Zabaleta: 5,5. 

Zabaleta and the right side of the defense were pinpointed by the Belgian offense as the weak link of the Argentinean squad and he held the fort strongly, not committing any egregious mistakes while attempting to contribute on offense whenever he could.


Ezequiel Garay: 7

Garay had sort of an up and down match, almost becoming the villain to finally be the hero by preventing a potential tying goal in stoppage time.


Martín Demichelis: 6. 

Demichelis started for the first time in this World Cup in place of Fernández and was solid overall, both on the ground and in the air.


José Basanta: 6. 

Basanta played in a position that wasn't his own and performed very well considering the circumstances. 

Javier Mascherano: 8,5. 

Mascherano had an outstanding match running, organizing the team and recovering the ball throughout the 90 minutes of play. Argentina´s defense was as firm as it was in large part thanks to him and his invaluable experience.


Lucas Biglia: 6. 

Also his first start, also solid. Complemented Mascherano well and always looked to Messi as his first pass option.


Angel Di María: 7. 

Di María only played for 31 minutes before getting injured, but his speed was a constant concern for the Belgian defense and his (deflected) pass led to the only goal of the match.


Enzo Pérez: 6. 

Pérez could not contribute half as much as Di María offensively, but he didn't embarrass himself and was up to the task in his first ever World Cup match.


Ezequiel Lavezzi: 5. 

His speed was never quite a factor, but his sacrifice didn't go as an improvised midfielder didn't go unnoticed throughout his 71 minutes on the pitch.

Lionel Messi: 7. 

Nothing flashy or amazing, just what Argentina needed as an organizer and nexus between the defense and the offense. Almost scored in stoppage time.


Gonzalo Higuaín: 9. 

The Man of the Match. Higuaín played what was arguably the best match of his career with Argentina's number 9 on his back, scoring a goal and almost penetrating the net for a second time with a nutmeg included before the crossbar denied his attempt.

Rodrigo Palacio: 6

Came in for Lavezzi in the 71st minute and was important to keep Belgium's defense worried about Argentina´s counterattack.


Fernando Gago: 6. 

Came in for Higuaín in the 81st minute and helped Argentina survive.  

 
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