The second semifinal of the 2014 FIFA World Cup saw South American giants overcome the perennial underachievers, Argentina vs Netherlands.
Argentina were looking to reach their first final since 1990 when they had a certain Maradona leading them to second place in the tournament, while Holland were looking to repeat their performance in the last World Cup by reaching the final yet again. The game was a cagey affair unlike what transpired 24 hours ago when Brazil were humiliated by Germany. With two very well-managed defenses, the match went into extra time and penalties. This time there were no heroics from Tim Krul as Louis Van Gaal had already used all his substitutes. Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder missed their penalties as Argentina won 4-2 on penalties and now face Germany in the final on Sunday. Holland faces Brazil in the 3rd place match up. Here are the 5 talking points from the game.
Defense vs. Defense
No one expected another crazy match like the other semi, what we got were two teams who did not want to force bodies into attack. Argentina and Holland set up shop to not concede and that did work for both of them with the game ending goal less and going to penalties. Big day nerves might have got to them, would this tactic work against Germany? That is the big question for Argentina.
No magic from Van Gaal:
In the quarterfinal, Van Gaal substituted the Dutch goal keeper, Cillessen for Tim Krul. This time around he had used up all his substitutes and the penalty saving specialist missed out on being a part of the shootout. A telling stat was that Cillessen had never saved a penalty kick before and he could not save one in the shootout either. Van Gaal should have kept this ace up the sleeve.
Argentina means Messi, just like it meant Maradona a couple of decades back. Holland did really well to keep Messi quiet throughout the game. They always had 2 or 3 players rushing to stop Messi and although the Argentine did have a couple of great runs, he could not pull the strings for his side. With Angel Di Maria missing and Sergio Aguero just coming back from an injury, Argentina needs another player to step up if they want to claim a third title.
The Dutch petered out:
The 5-1 win over Spain seems a distant memory. That was the Dutch playing on song but it seemed they hit top gear too early in the tournament. Their next games were close fought wins against Australia and Chile. They even needed late goals against Mexico to win and were held goal less by Costa Rica who they beat on penalties as well. Not scoring against Argentina cost them as well, their defense did a stellar job; it’s the attack that was far less potent.
An intriguing final:
Argentina hasn’t conceded a goal in the knockout stage of the competition while Germany has scored the most goals in the tournament, albeit thanks to that marvelous showing against Brazil. Argentina is massively reliant on Messi and Germany has enough players to turn the match on its head and is more like a team. The final should be named Messi vs. Germany, as it has been Messi vs. Holland, Messi vs. Switzerland and Messi vs. Belgium. If Germany wins it, it will be the first time they have won it under unification and the first time a European team has won a World Cup in South America. If Argentina wins it, Messi would be elevated to the echelons of Pele and Maradona.