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Notes: Argentina’s Angel Di Maria out for semifinal

Argentina’s attack may be diminished without Angel Di Maria (thigh injury).dennis sabangan/epa

Argentina midfielder Angel Di Maria was ruled out of the World Cup semifinal against the Netherlands with a thigh injury, while striker Sergio Aguero has been declared fit to play on Wednesday after recovering from a similar problem.

Di Maria limped off the field in the first half of Argentina’s quarterfinal win over Belgium on Saturday after straining a muscle in the back of his right thigh. Team doctor Daniel Martinez on Sunday said tests showed it was a ‘‘first-degree’’ strain — the mildest kind — but added that Di Maria wouldn’t be fit to play in the semifinal.

Losing Di Maria is a big blow for Argentina as it prepares for its first World Cup semifinal since 1990. Besides Lionel Messi, he’s been the team’s most influential player in Brazil. Di Maria scored the extra-time winner against Switzerland in the second round and set up Gonzalo Higuain’s winning goal in the first half on Saturday.

‘‘He’s a key player in this project,’’ Higuain said.


With left back Marcos Rojo returning from suspension, Argentina’s defense should be in even better shape for the semifinal. However, the attack is bound to suffer without Di Maria.

Willian may start

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari hinted in training Sunday that midfielder Willian is his first option to replace Neymar in Tuesday’s semifinal against Germany.

Willian took Neymar’s position when Brazil’s reserves played against a local under-20 squad at its training camp outside Rio de Janeiro. Willian was used in the middle, in front of Brazil’s defensive midfielders, the same way Neymar played before being ruled out of the tournament because of a fractured vertebra.

In addition to missing Neymar, Brazil will not be able to count on captain and central defender Thiago Silva because of a yellow-card suspension. Dante, who plays in Germany for Bayern Munich, is his likely replacement. Fellow defender David Luiz is the probable captain Tuesday.


The Brazilian football confederation is trying to get Silva’s suspension overturned and FIFA said it was analyzing the request, but it remained unlikely Brazil would get its way.

Rough reputation

Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger thinks Brazil has crossed the line with some of its hard tackling and is urging referees to keep a closer eye on the host team Tuesday.

‘‘I am all for a healthy hardness, but some of Brazil’s fouls were over the limit,’’ Schweinsteiger said. ‘‘Brazilians are not only football magicians, hard tackling is part of their game — we have to be careful and so does the referee.’’

Brazil committed 31 fouls in its quarterfinal win over Colombia, which had 23. Brazil has committed 96 fouls in five games, significantly more than Germany’s 57. Brazil players have received 10 yellow cards, six more than German players.

‘‘Brazil is an outstanding team that plays at the limit of the allowed and will go over the limit if necessary,’’ Germany assistant coach Hansi Flick told reporters Sunday.

Marco Rodriguez of Mexico, the referee who failed to see Uruguay’s Luis Suarez bite an opponent June 24 against Italy, was picked by FIFA to officiate the Brazil-Germany semifinal.

Krul twist

Netherlands goalkeeper Tim Krul insists he did nothing wrong in confronting Costa Rica’s penalty takers during Saturday’s quarterfinal shootout. Krul’s crucial two saves followed his novel tactic that tested FIFA’s guidelines on fair play. The substitute goalie faced up to opponents at the penalty spot and repeatedly told them he knew where they’d place their shots. ‘‘I am trying obviously to get into their heads and it worked,’’ said Krul of his trash talk . . . World Cup attendances are set to achieve the second-highest average in tournament history. FIFA announced the average crowd after 60 matches in Brazil is 52,762, beating the 52,491 mark for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The record was set in the United States at the 1994 World Cup, when an average of 68,991 attended the 52 matches in a 24-team tournament. More than 3.16 million spectators have attended in Brazil, with stadiums filled to 98.3 percent capacity, FIFA said . . . The four World Cup quarterfinals all averaged more than 10 million viewers in the United States combined on ABC, ESPN networks, and Spanish-language Univision. The overall quarterfinal average was 10.29 million.


Nigeria is not backing down after sacking its entire national football federation leadership, ignoring a FIFA directive, and moving closer to a ban from internationals for the reigning African champion. A weekend meeting of football and government officials in the capital of Abuja endorsed the earlier sacking of Nigeria Football Federation President Aminu Maigari and his executive committee for not solving a player payment dispute during the World Cup. Officials said in a statement Sunday they were planning new elections. FIFA, which doesn’t allow governments to interfere in football affairs, said it would not recognize Saturday’s meeting and has given Nigeria until Tuesday to reinstate Maigari or face sanctions. That would likely involve banning the country’s national team and clubs from playing in continental or international tournaments.