Today is Javier Mascherano’s birthday.
But he will live long in the memory of fans across the world, mainly for his fiercely competitive nature and combative style on the pitch.
Between 2007-2010, his unwavering commitment to protect Rafa Benitez’s back-four endeared himself to the Anfield faithful.
When he moved on to Barcelona after his spell on Merseyside, he became one of the most cool and well calculated centre-backs in Europe until he left Camp Nou in 2018.
However, if you asked a fan to define his single most iconic career moment, it probably wouldn’t be lifting the Champions League or reaching a World Cup final with Argentina – although, if you said the latter option then you’d be pretty damn close.
Because it was in fact in the semi-final of the World Cup, the game prior to Argentina’s 1-0 defeat to Germany, that Mascherano’s big moment came.
Video: Mascherano’s majestic last-ditch tackle to save the World Cup
They were playing the high-flying Netherlands team that had a plethora of world class talent through the likes of Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben.
In order to get a result, Argentina would need to rely heavily on their dogged defensive capabilities and their world-beating captain, Lionel Messi.
As it turned out, though, it would be a quiet day at the office for their little genius and instead the game would be a hard fought contest that was still 0-0 going into injury time.
With extra-time looming, Netherland’s most dangerous asset Robben burst into the Argentina penalty area and looked almost certain to smash home the winning goal at the death.
However, a charging back Mascherano put in an almost superhuman last-ditch tackle that prevented the shot from ever reaching it’s desired target.
It was a heroic challenge but one that came at a great cost for the man himself.
Check out the beauty below…
Mascherano on the consequences of the challenge
Mascherano later discussed the incident and opened up about the rather awkward injury he had sustained, per Independent:
“I thought I had slipped, I thought I wouldn’t make it, but I tore my anus on that move, the pain…it was terrible,” he said.
“I threw myself into it. I could have been sent off. It could have been a penalty but anyone could have done that, I had the luck to get there.”
Talk about putting your body on the line…
Argentina would eventually win the deciding penalty shoot-out between the two nations and progress to the final.
There they would meet a Germany team that had just annihilated Brazil on home turf 7-1, and ultimately, fall at the last hurdle.
Nevertheless, that incredible challenge and the resulting injury from it, we will always remember as one of the most iconic moments of the 2014 World Cup.
Happy birthday, Javier.