The second semi final brings together two of the world’s most entertaining football nations in a repeat of the final of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina – It’s Netherlands vs Argentina!
Not much was expected of both these teams at the start of the World Cup, the reliance of Netherlands on a large number of Eredivisie based players was considered a weakness and many were sceptical of the Argentine defense. But Argentina has managed to keep 3 clean sheets in the tournament so far and the impact of many of the lesser names has been a real strength in their run to the semi-finals for Netherlands.
Argentina: Di Maria is expected to miss the tie after suffering a thigh injury, however Sergio Aguero is expected to return after missing out after the group stages. Left back Marcos Rojo is back after suspension but Sabella might be inclined towards retaining Basanta in the left back position after a good display against Belgium last time around. So Aguero and Lavezzi may partner Higuain upfront, who looked in good touch and ended his goal drought in the last match after a string of disappointing performances.
Netherlands: Midfielder Nigel de Jong could feature recovering from a groin injury. Injury doubts Ron Vlaar and Leroy Fer took part in full training on Tuesday. However captain Robin van Persie trained away from his teammates and coach Louis van Gaal confirmed he has an intestinal problem.
“Robin van Persie has an intestinal problem and I didn’t want to take a risk,” said Van Gaal. “He is a very important player for us.”In principle, my captains always play, but only if they’re 100%.”
Road to Quarter Finals:
vs Bosnia and Herzegovina w 2-1
vs Iran w 1-0
vs Nigeria w 3-2
vs Switzerland w 1-0
vs Belgium w 1-0
vs Spain w 5-1
vs Australia w 3-2
vs Chile 2-0
vs Mexico 2-1
vs Costa Rica w 0-0 (4-3 penalties)
Lionel Messi: He has been the best player for the Albicelestes. He is the team’s top scorer in the tournament with 4 goals and could have had five if not for an amazing save by Courtois in the dying minutes of their quarter-final fixture. Man of the Match in four games out of five shows what impact he has on the game. He has been brilliant throughout the tournament and even on his worse days he can be better than the rest of the men on the field.
Gonzalo Higuain: It’s surprising, he has not been upto the mark in this tournament, and has scored only one goal so far. With nine goals, he was second only to Messi and Uruguay striker Luis Suarez in South American qualifying. And it seems like he has regained that form if the last match is anything to go by.
Arjen Robben: The team is heavily reliant on this man and so far he has delivered without a break. He has been one of the best players in the tournament, dribbling past defenders, scoring or setting up goals, leading from the front, motivating players, he has done it all. He is the main man behind Netherland’s success.
Robin van Persie: The Dutch captain is also one of the best strikers in the world. Blessed with a powerful left foot, he is a clinical finisher. He got the world on their feet when he scored an amazing flying header against the Spanish. The Dutch would be hoping for another spirited performance from their captain.
It is very hard to predict such a huge game. On his day both Robben and Messi can tear apart their opponents and both have been in great form. Dutch coach Louis van Gaal has surprised the football world with his unconventional substitutions and all of them has worked so far. It would be interesting to see what he has in his locker today. This game has the potential to be one of the most interesting matches of the tournament with one moment of brilliance from the two maestros to tilt the balance in their favour. But I believe it’s a slight advantage to Argentina because their defense has looked a little more resolute than the Dutch.