World Cup Semi-Final: Netherlands v Argentina

By on July 9, 2014

Argentina will face Netherlands in the second semi final of this year’s World Cup as Lionel Messi looks to etch his name in the history books by leading his team to glory but it will not be easy by any means as the Dutch lead by Louis van Gaal will definitely have their say in this one.

This will be a repeat of the 1978 World Cup final in Argentina where the hosts came out on top in a very controversial game. Argentina won the game in extra time with a 3-1 scoreline and the memories of that final will be present in the minds of the Dutch supporters as they hope their team can take revenge in this game.

Netherlands were off to a brilliant start to the World Cup campaign thrashing the ex-champions Spain by 5-1. They have isnce had off days in the office as well but Louis van Gaal’s side have managed to get the results in their favor. They have been frustrated at times but they still manage to grind out results as is evident from their quarter final game against Costa Rica. Costa Rica played with a back line of five defenders and completely frustrated the Dutch throughout the 90 minutes of the game to take it into extra time. Neither side could find the back of the net during extra time as well and the game was decided on penalties where the Dutch came out on top. They were the better side throughout the game and created many chances and half chances but could not beat Keylor Navas from open play. However, Costa Rica were extremely defensive in that game and the Dutch had to build up plays in that game which will probably not be the case in this game as Argentina will look to attack from the get go and Louis van Gaal’s side will likely play in the counter which is what they did against Spain in their opening game, to good effect.

The Netherlands have surprised many by coming this far in the tournament. With injuries to key players like Kevin Strootman before the start of the World Cup and loss of players after the World Cup kicked in, like Nigel de Jong, many thought that they would not be able to reach the semi finals of the World Cup. Furthermore, much of Louis van Gaal’s squad comprised of players who play their club football in the Dutch Eredivise and are relatively unknown to the world audience. However, the unknown factor did give van Gaal’s side an air of unpredictability which they have used to full advantage. They have made it into the semis and now they will have their eyes set on a second successive World Cup final as van Gaal looks to do one better with this side and lift the Netherland’s first ever World Cup trophy.

Louis van Gaal was applauded after his master stroke of a substitution in the last game against Costa Rica. In the final minute of extra time, with the game looking set to go to penalties, Louis van Gaal took of his regular goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen and brought on the second choice goalkeeper Tim Krul for the penalty shootout. It seemed like a very bold move at the time but it did pay off as Tim Krul managed to guess all five of the Costa Rican penalties correctly and managed to save two of them to hand Netherlands the victory. Whether it was just a mind game to affle the Costa Rica players or in fact a judgement call, Louis van Gaal pulled off one of the substitutions of the tournament. The Dutch coach will definitely have some mind games in stored for this agme as well as they look to take on Leo Messi’s Argentina.

Argentina have reached the semi finals fro the first time in 24 years. Their last semi final appearance was in Italia ’90. They have not been the most dazzling side of the World Cup by any means but they have been effective grinding out victories in the tight games as well. They played Belgium in the quarter final round with many considering the young Belgium squad to show Argentina the door but Alejandro Sabella’s side had other things in mind. Argentina were off to a very good start and created numerour opening throughout the 1st half. Leo Messi and Angel di Maria tearing apart the Belgian defence. It was a combination between Lionel messi and di Maria that found Gonzalo Higuain free on the edge of the penalty box and the Napoli forward  scored from the chance to open his account in the 2014 World Cup. Later on in the 2nd half, Argentina were again the side that created most of the chances but failed to add to their one goal tally. Lionel Messi had a glorious chance to put the game to bed right at the end but a good save from Thibaut Courtois kept the Barcelona forward out. The game ended with the same 1-0 scoreline of which Argentina are so used to.

Argentina possess one of the best attacking line-ups in the world composed of players like Messi, Aguero, Higuain, di Maria and Ezequiel Lavezzi and one of the toughest tests that Alejandro Sabella had to face prior to the World Cup was how to incorporate all of his forwards into the team effectively. From the progress they have made so far it is clear that Sabella has found a harmony within the squad moving Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria into deeper positions and allowing all of the build up to pass through them. Another issue that Sabella faced was the lack of depth in defence with a very unbalanced blend of youth and experience at his disposal but Sabella has managed to find a chemistry in that area as well. Consequently, they have not been the freely scoring side that their attacking line-up suggests and have not been as freely conceding as many predicted before the World Cup. All five of their World Cup wins have been by 1 goal margins with the previous two knockout fixtures ending with a 1-0 scoreline. It’s fair to say that they will face another stern test in this game and Netherlands look likely to sit back and play on the counter as Belgium and Switzerland attempted to do so in their games against Argentina. La Albiceleste will face another tight defence and it is upto Lionel Messi and co to break down the barriers and find the gaps.

Argentina were dealt a blow in their last game when Angel di Maria had to be subtituted off the pitch in the 1st half. Later reports suggested that he had a muscle tear in hsi thigh and will be unavailable for the semi final. This will be a huge blow for Argentina’s prospects as he has been on the most crucial player in that squad alongside Messi and Mascherano. Sabella deployed Angel di Maria in a deeper position in midfield alongside the likes of Mascherano and Gago, the same way Carlo Ancelotti used him at Real Madrid, and it has really helped Argentina control play in the center of the park. His ability to maintain possession, carry the ball forward and his impressive work rate make him an ideal fit into that midfield. He is the player with the 3rd most dribbles/game according to WhoScored and is only behind Alexis Sanchez and compatriot Lionel Messi. Furthermore, he also has the 2nd highest shots in this tournament behind Karim Benzema. In his absence, Enze Perez is likely to step into the fold and it will be a tough task for Argentina to build from midfield and will put alot more responsibility on Lionel Messi’s shoulders.

Louis van Gaal has only one injury issue ahead of the game as Nigel de Jong will not be able to feature for them again in this tournament. Jonathan de Guzamn is likely to replace him in the starting XI. Netherlands will again use the 3-4-1-2 formation with Blind and Kuyt playing as wingbacks. This also means that Arjen Robben and van Perise will start up front with Sneijder playing in the pocket behind the two players. Martins Indi, Vlaar and Vrij are expected to retain their spots in the starting XI.

Argentina will be without Angel di Maria for this game who will be a huge miss. Enzo Perez is likely to replace him in the starting XI. Argentina will play with a three man midfield again with Javier Mascherano forming the base alongside Perez and either Fernando Gago or Lucas Biglia. Marcos Rojo returns to the side after serving his suspension and will regain his spot in the starting XI. Sergio Aguero also retursn to the side after recovering from an injury and is likely to start alongside Gonzaol Higuain. Lionel Messi will likely start in a deeper role behind the two strikers. Martin Demichelis looks set to retain his spot in the line-up after an impressive display against Belgium.

DATE: July 9, 2014


VENUE: Arena Corinthians, Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo


Netherlands (3-4-1-2):- Cillessn; Indi, Vlaar, Vrij; Blind, Wijnaldum, Guzman, Kuyt; Sneijder; Robben, van Persie
Argentina (4-3-1-2):- Romero; Rojo, Demichelis, Garay, Zabaleta; Perez, Mascherano, Gago; Messi; Higuain, Aguero

Netherlands:- 0-0 vs Costa Rica
Argentina:- 1-0 Belgium

AUTHOR’s PREDICTION: Netherlands 1-2 Argentina

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