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Jul 5, 2014

Sabella: Argentina achieve history

Although Argentina progressed to the semi-finals, Alejandro Sabella was quite upset to hear Neymar would miss the rest of the World Cup with a broken vertebra.

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella says his team "will go down in history" after reaching the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1990 with a 1-0 victory against Belgium on Saturday.

Gonzalo Higuain gave the early advantage to Argentina, who held firm to limit their opponents' chances for the remaining 80-plus minutes.

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"They played an excellent match and I am extremely happy because of the boys," Sabella said. "After 24 years, we can be among the four best teams in the world. So as you can tell, this is a huge, but moderate joy. We have to reserve our energy.

Sabella said his team improved from their previous match, a 1-0 win in which the Albiceleste could not break down the Switzerland defence until the 118th minute.

"With Switzerland, the team showed improvement. We are all human beings. We have our better days and have our worst days beyond tactics and strategy. The coach might have a bad day," Sabella said.

"You might wake up in the morning and make the wrong decisions, but the team is a team, a group of individuals who get along very well and have that sense of belonging to the group. They come onto the field and give 120 percent for the man playing next to him. After 24 years, this is a tribute to this team. They will go down in history and we'll see if we can achieve something more."

Saturday's triumph over Belgium did not come without a cost for Argentina, as Angel Di Maria suffered a thigh injury and had to be substituted in the first half.

Sabella said: "He is vital to us, but the players played an excellent match from a tactical and strategic point of view: the idea of giving and not receiving in order to create a virtuous circle. We want more, but we lived up to the objective, which was to be a part of the final four of the best teams in the world."

Argentina exulted in their victory on Saturday, but they may be without Angel Di Maria, right, in the semifinals.

Goal scorer Higuain reflected on the importance of the occasion for Argentina, who won the World Cup in 1978 and in 1986.

"I'd like to say that I'm thrilled for having advanced to the semifinals. It's been a long time. I've been working hard to score the goal and it finally came today. Every striker wants a goal and what is more beautiful than doing it today? I felt OK and I thank the team for the huge effort."

"This was an important match. The truth is that this was a match that offered us a chance to advance to the semifinals for the first time in a very long time. Being able to do it is a matter of great joy, but we still have two matches to go so that we can have the dream that brought us here from the very first day. I only have words of gratitude to this team, our families and all of the people in Argentina who have been following us."

Although Higuain scored his first goal of the tournament, Lionel Messi continued to find the spotlight by receiving the ball deep and slicing past Belgian defenders to deliver for his teammates.

"As for Messi, I feel that he played a wonderful match because it is not only about scoring goals," Sabella said. "Every move he makes is a sign of hope for us and he engages the opponent. What he does within the field of play beyond scoring goals or not, the influence that he has on the pitch is decisive.

"He gave us that water in the desert. He gives us that breath of fresh air every time he held onto the ball and that is something that you truly value."

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