(Reuters) - Angel Di Maria is working hard on his fitness for the chance to play a part in Argentina’s Copa America Centenario final against title holders Chile on Sunday after bad luck in two previous finals.
Di Maria, nicknamed “Fideo” (noodle), is desperate not to lose out on the East Rutherford showcase after missing the 2014 World Cup final through injury and having to come off after half an hour of last year’s Copa America decider in Chile.
“All I want is to be able to play the final. The last two, I couldn’t, let’s hope this is the definitive one,” said Di Maria, who scored Argentina’s first goal of the tournament in a 2-1 group stage win over Chile.
Di Maria was told after his injury against Panama that he would only likely play again in the tournament if Argentina reached the final.
In what has been an impressive tournament for Lionel Messi’s Argentina, the wing position normally occupied by Di Maria has been jinxed.
“Today we can say that Di Maria is better physically than Nico Gaitan,” coach Gerardo Martino told reporters naming the new Atletico Madrid player who played on the left wing in the 4-1 quarter-final win over Venezuela.
Gaitan is nursing a leg muscle strain he sustained against Venezuela and Ezequiel Lavezzi has no chance of playing at the Metlife after an elbow injury during the 4-0 semi-final win over hosts the Unites States in Houston.
Should none of these players start the final, the left wing position is likely to go to Erik Lamela, who has scored twice in the tournament.
(Writing by Rex Gowar, editing by Pritha Sarkar)