BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil—Rodrigo Palacio celebrated his inclusion in Argentina’s highly competitive World Cup squad by scoring a goal in a warm-up against Trinidad and Tobago.
Then he twisted his right ankle in the same match, and his World Cup appeared to be over before it had started.
Now the 32-year-old Inter Milan striker is training with the team again, and dreaming of getting another chance of representing Argentina on the big stage.
“When I twisted my ankle I got scared because I feared that it might be something serious,” Palacio said Tuesday. “But the doctors told me stay calm that it wasn’t anything serious. After the MRI scan I calmed down.”
Palacio scored 17 goals in the Italian Serie A last season, making him Inter’s top marksman and the fourth highest scorer in the league, alongside Argentina team mate Gonzalo Higuain, who plays for Napoli, and Udinese’s Antonio Di Natale.
Still, that’s barely enough to make the bench in Argentina, which is blessed with more firepower than most teams in the tournament.
“I know that the starters are (Sergio) Aguero, Higuain and (Lionel) Messi,” Palacio said. “But I’m ready in case the coach needs me, perhaps for a change of tactics.”
Palacio hasn’t seen any World Cup action since 2006, when he came on as a second-half substitute for Hernan Crespo in Argentina’s opener against Ivory Coast. He wasn’t called up for the 2010 tournament.
The ankle injury meant that Ezequiel Lavezzi also jumped ahead of him in the pecking order so Palacio knows he’s best bet at this point is coming off the bench when coach Alejandro Sabella wants to substitute one of the starters.
“When I come on Alejandro (Sabella) always asks me to help the midfield recover the ball and to be another forward entering the area trying to score goals,” Palacio said.
He expects Argentina to play better in its next match, against Iran, than it did in the opening 2-1 win over Bosnia. The team was mediocre in the first half but improved after the break, with Messi scoring Argentina’s second goal in the 65th minute.
“Bosnia is a much more physical team than Iran,” Palacio said. “Now we have dropped the weight of playing the first game. The victory gave us calm. Surely we’re going to improve a lot and play a great game.”