At 26 years of age, Angel Di Maria has matured into a player whose performances for both Real Madrid and the Argentinian national side regularly draw choruses of praise, with Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella among his chief admirers: "He's vital, almost irreplaceable." That much was clear on the road to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, with the left-sided attacker playing a total of 1036 minutes in 12 qualifying matches, a haul bettered by only two team-mates. Furthermore, his speed, agility and eye for goal helped him to find the target three times during the qualifiers and he even wore the captain's armband on one occasion.
Schooled at the Rosario Central youth academy, Di Maria, nicknamed 'Fideo' (Noodle) due to his slight physique, made his professional debut in 2005 as a 17-year-old but joined Portuguese outfit Benfica after just two seasons. In 2007 he also won his first title with Argentina, lifting the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada and scoring two goals at the tournament despite starting out as a substitute.
By the time he joined Real Madrid, Di Maria had won gold at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament at Beijing 2008, where he found the net in the quarter-finals and the final even though he was once again primarily used as a substitute, and also featured at South Africa 2010. He has been a key part of the national team under Sabella and will be crucial to Argentina's hopes of success in Brazil.