Scoreless Higuain still has coach's confidence

The Associated Press
What to watch in last 2 World Cup quarterfinals
.

View gallery

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) -- Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella insists that striker Gonzalo Higuain is doing a great job for the team, even though he hasn't scored a single goal at the World Cup.

The 26-year-old Napoli player has been struggling to return to full fitness after an ankle injury in May, and has not impressed in Argentina's four World Cup matches.

Playing at the center of a three-man attack, Higuain has often been outpaced and outsmarted by defenders in the tournament.

In the last match against Switzerland, he had just one clear scoring chance, a header that goalkeeper Diego Benaglio saved with his fingertips.

Still, Sabella said Friday that Higuain's form is improving and that ''we all have a lot of confidence in him because he is a great player who is doing a great job for the team. What's missing is the goal-scoring.''

Argentina heads into its quarterfinal game against Belgium with only one forward, Lionel Messi, having scored goals so far at the World Cup.

Higuain scored 25 goals in 46 games for Napoli this season. But his last match before the World Cup was the Italian Cup final in May. Sabella said Higuain's ankle injury meant he wasn't 100 percent fit when the team started its campaign in Brazil.

But with Sergio Aguero injured, and Juventus striker Carlos Tevez excluded from the World Cup squad, Argentina has little choice but to keep Higuain in the lineup if Sabella sticks to his 4-3-3 formation.

''He is improving every day. In the last match he ran more than any other player. He sacrifices himself for the team,'' Sabella said.

Last week Higuain said he was no longer feeling pain in his ankle and that he was gaining rhythm in training.

''All strikers need to score goals, but also help the team,'' he said. ''I'm staying calm. Hopefully the goal will arrive soon.''

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey
  • Corsica's Bastia punished for fans' racist abuse of Nice striker Balotelli

    (Reuters) - Soccer's Ligue 1 disciplinary committee has ordered Corsica's Bastia to close part of their stadium for three matches after a group of supporters shouted racist insults at Nice striker Mario Balotelli during a 1-1 draw in January. The … More »

    Reuters - 3 minutes 35 seconds ago
  • Arsenal's Cazorla cannot give time frame for return from injury

    Arsenal's Cazorla cannot give time frame for return from injury

    Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla cannot give a timeline on his return from injury after undergoing a minor procedure on his right ankle on Thursday, after the scar from surgery in December opened when he was cycling. "Everything was going well … More »

    Reuters - 4 minutes 27 seconds ago
  • Swansea's Makelele relishing Chelsea reunion

    Swansea's Makelele relishing Chelsea reunion

    (Reuters) - Swansea City assistant coach Claude Makelele retains fond memories of his successful spell as a Chelsea player but the Frenchman will temporarily sever ties with the London side when his current team face the Premier League leaders on … More »

    Reuters - 48 minutes ago
  • Bayern Munich is now the favorite to win the Champions League

    Bayern Munich is now the favorite to win the Champions League

    With Lewandowski, Bayern has that look of a European champion again. When Bayern Munich last won the Champions League, the focus and strength of that European side was its dynamic wing play. No, Robert Lewandowski wasn’t scoring goals to save … More »

    FC Yahoo - 1 hour 4 minutes ago
  • Swansea's Makelele relishing Chelsea reunion

    Swansea's Makelele relishing Chelsea reunion

    (Reuters) - Swansea City assistant coach Claude Makelele retains fond memories of his successful spell as a Chelsea player but the Frenchman will temporarily sever ties with the London side when his current team face the Premier League leaders on … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 8 minutes ago