Demichelis out to thwart old master Van Gaal
Sao Paulo: Having been brought back in from the international wilderness, Argentina defender Martin Demichelis is now hoping to ruin the World Cup dream of his former coach Louis van Gaal in Wednesday`s semi-final against the Netherlands.
The 33-year-old Manchester City defender had not featured at all before being called-up into the side for Saturday`s quarter-final with Belgium in Brasilia.
Preferred to Federico Fernandez in central defence, Demichelis shone alongside Ezequiel Garay as Argentina triumphed 1-0 to progress to the last four.
While most of the focus is on Lionel Messi and his ability to drag what many consider to be an average Argentine side to the title, Demichelis and his fellow defenders will have a central role to play if they are to stop the dangerous Dutch attack.
He knows all about the threat posed by Arjen Robben, his former team-mate at Bayern Munich, and the tactical nous of Van Gaal, under whom Demichelis played in the Bayern side that reached the Champions League final in 2010.
He has described Van Gaal as "a great manager" and someone who is "very convinced about his own methods", so Demichelis knows the size of the task in store.
But he is also just savouring his return to international prominence after close to three years out of the picture.
"It means a lot in every sense. It is a reward for all those who helped me," he said after the Belgium win, which marked his 39th cap but his first competitive appearance for the Albiceleste since 2011.A regular in Diego Maradona`s side that was humbled 4-0 by Germany in the 2010 quarter-finals, Demichelis thought his international career was over after his mistake saw Argentina have to settle for a 1-1 draw with Bolivia in November of the following year.
Argentina started poorly in the qualifying campaign for this World Cup with Demichelis a regular in the side. Against Bolivia, his error allowed Marcelo Martins to put the unfancied visitors ahead in Buenos Aires, and the crowd turned on him even after the hosts equalise
"It was a tremendous blow. Nothing like that had ever happened to me in football," he told Argentine magazine El Grafico months later.
"To experience that reaction from the crowd, from the mistake until the end of the game, those were the longest, saddest and most unpleasant minutes I have endured on a pitch."
However, in the same interview he indicated that he still harboured hope of a recall, admitting: "There is nothing that makes an Argentine player more proud than pulling on the shirt of his country."
Demichelis, who played under Manuel Pellegrini at River Plate and Malaga before following him to City last year, was nevertheless as surprised as anybody when he was called up to Alejandro Sabella`s Argentina squad for the finals.
For many, his last year is best remembered for a challenge on compatriot Messi that led to a penalty in Barcelona`s 2-0 Champions League win in Manchester, but now he is just one game away from playing in a World Cup final.