FRISCO - For many Argentines, the 2014 World Cup performance was a return to past glory that reminded them of the years when players like Maradona and Ruggeri ran the show in brilliant fashion. However, for a 22-year-old like Mauro Diaz, the Messi-inspired month was a first taste of World Cup glory for the home land.
“I’m really happy that Argentina made the final and I’m really proud of the team’s performance,” Diaz said through a translator on Tuesday. “It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities we had in the final against Germany, but they were the better team and they deserved to win the championship.”
While the Albiceleste fell at the final hurdle to Mario Gotze’s extra time wonder-strike, it had been 24 years since Argentina reached this pinnacle of soccer. Alejandro Sabella’s side defeated Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland in the knockout round and could have won it all had the finishing been a little sharper.
“It’s been 24 years since we reached the final, so it was great to be back and I’m so proud of all the players that were on the team,” said Diaz. “I think it will help the national team build confidence in the coming years and will be something to build on.”
Diaz said he kept it low-key and watched the final in his apartment near the stadium, but was in constant contact with his friends and family in Argentina. Mauro featured for the Argentina U-20 national team in 2009 and 2010.
As for Argentina’s star of the tournament, Lionel Messi, who received some criticism for his up-and-down performance in the final despite scoring four goals en route to controversially winning the tournament’s Golden Ball award for best player, Diaz had some clear words about him.
“For me, he’s the best player in the world and he’s the guy in the middle of the field who’s always fighting for the team and giving 100 percent,” said Diaz. “He gave everything and the people who speak negatively about it clearly don’t know a lot about the game.”