As the euphoria of a gruelling penalty shoot-out victory over the Netherlands finally dies down, Argentina turn their attention to their next match. It is not just any old clash.
On Sunday, Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium will play host to the Albiceleste and Germany in the World Cup final, a third meeting in the competition's decider for the two proud nations.
Contrary to what many expected, it has been defensive stability rather than electrifying attack that has steered Alejandro Sabella's men through Brazil so far. With only three goals conceded in the entire tournament, the team holds a record low of the four teams to make it to the semi-finals.
With just eight registered at the other end, four of those coming from the boot of Lionel Messi and another attributed to an unwilling Bosnia and Herzegovina own goal, Argentine matches have more often than not been tense affairs. So far it has suited them down to the ground, brushing off criticism of uninspiring play as they marched into the final.
But Sabella will have a big decision on Sunday, concerning a player that was absolutely vital to the Albiceleste's attacking potency prior to the World Cup.
Sergio Aguero entered the Netherlands match with 10 minutes left of regular time in place of Gonzalo Higuain up front. It was no regular substitution. El Kun recovered from a muscle injury sustained against Nigeria in impressive time, per Metro, missing clashes against Belgium and Switzerland before appearing in the semi-final and converting during the penalty shoot-out.
But Argentina fans should not get too excited about the Manchester City star's cameo. If the nation's coaching staff do not see a big improvement on the physical side from Aguero in the days leading up to the final, there is no way that he should start.
In 10 minutes of regular time plus an extra 30 minutes, which failed to separate the two cautious sides, El Kun was a shadow of his usual hyperactive self on the pitch. The movement to escape from markers was missing, and there was a curious disconnect with Lionel Messi, with whom the forward usually shares an almost telepathic understanding.
Bleacher Report's Michael Cummings gave Aguero a grade of six out of 10 for his efforts in extra time, but the truth was he looked off the pace and on a different wavelength than his team-mates.
In short, he looked like a player who had missed two matches and was rushed back into the line-up.
Questions over fitness also surrounded El Kun before the World Cup had even begun, and it appears that a season in Manchester interrupted by niggling injuries must have contributed to what has been, to put it kindly, a mediocre tournament for the forward.
Aguero's talent has not gone anywhere. In short bursts, he is one of the best players on the planet, with the skill and intelligence to surprise everyone.
But Argentina cannot afford to carry any passengers against Germany.
El Kun and Angel di Maria—also hoping to regain fitness after injury, per Fox News—should not be rushed back into the team. Solidity and consistency are the keys to breaking down Germany from the kick-off onwards, and the two doubtful superstars will be ready to jump off the bench and do damage in the final minutes.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!