The Dutch face the Argentines in a juicy semi-final encounter that offers to light up the world cup with some world class attackers on display with two solid and tactically brilliant managers on show. Alejandro Sabella has been very passionate about managing the Argentine national team and that was shown last time out when he nearly lost his balance when Higuain was denied by the cross bar, while his counterpart van Gaal made a tactical master class out of a gamble by bringing on Tim Krul for Jasper Cillessen for penalties only, the substitute keeper who saved two penalties to propel Dutch to the semis. With two well-balanced teams on display, we can expect a closely fought match full of flair, energy and even controversies!
The Netherlands’ have been rampant throughout the tournament with their ability to work very hard on the pitch. They have managed to dominate every team, despite scrapping through two crucial wins against Mexico and Costa Rica. Louis van Gaal, soon will be taking charge of his Manchester United team, would like to finish the job and leave the national coaching job on a high.
Tactically, the Dutch have been smart as they have relied on fast counter attacking and providing direct service to Robben and van Persie. Their game has been simple without much fuss, and their main attribute has been their defensive contribution. Every player seems to be well aware of his defensive responsibility, which makes the team very resilient.
The Dutch rely on their playmaker Wesley Sneijder to get the game going by bringing the forwards into the play. He has been brilliant in the tournament so far with his distribution and work rate. He will be ably supported by world class players like Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, who offer easy solutions for playmakers with their positioning and flair. Young Memphis Depay has been impressive and could start the semi-final from the wings. Other key players would be left wing-back Daley Blind who has had a great world cup so far, and veteran Dirk Kuyt, who would be playing an unfamiliar Right Wing-back role. Kuyt’s work rate has been phenomenal, which adds a lot of value to the team as he is experienced and is decent technically as well.
Alejandro Sabella has a lot of attacking options at his disposal, which arguably is the best forward list in the tournament. But out of all, it has been one man who has been leading the team with his goals and skills- Lionel Messi. Messi, unlike his club form, has been at his best playing in a resilient Argentine set-up and has been extremely influential for his team till the semi-final.
Argentina will be without key attacking midfielder Angel di Maria, who was injured in the quarter final against Belgium when he pulled his hamstring when he shot at goal. He had been in amazing form for both club and country, and was one of the key performers for the team along with Messi. His injury would mean that Messi will have to operate alone in the midfield as his replacement Enzo Perez is likely to be more functional than flair.
Sergio Aguero is available for selection after his injury, but there are chances that Sabella will choose to start with a fully fit Lavezzi instead of Aguero. Aguero’s fitness has been a cause of worry for club Manchester City as well as they relied heavily on goals from Dzeko in the business end when Aguero was constantly getting injured and struggling to stay fit. It remains to be seen if his injury prone time in the campaign will hurt Argentina.
Netherlands: Cillessen; deVrij, Martins Indi, Vlaar; Kuyt, Wijnaldum, Sneijder, Blind; Robben, Depay, van Persie
Argentina: Romero; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Garay, Rojo; Mascherano, Gago, Perez; Messi, Lavezzi, Higuain
The teams are extremely well-matched and play solid brand of football. It is hard to pick a favourite and the match has every chance of going into extra time or penalties. Because of a lot of top quality attackers in both the teams, there is a good chance that the match will remain undecided at the end of extra time forcing a penalty shootout to decide the winner.
Netherlands 1-1 Argentina (Argentina to go through in penalties)
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