World Cup 2014 semi-final 2 – Argentina vs Holland 9th July
Argentina (odds on 8/13 to qualify) and Holland (6/5), who meet in Wednesday’s semi-final at Sao Paulo, have a rich World Cup rivalry to say the least.
In 8 previous World Cup matches between the sides, Argentina have won just 1, the 1978 final on home turf. Argentina will be without injured Angel di Maria who, despite criticism of earlier performances, stepped up wonderfully to score the only goal of their quarter-final against Belgium. On the other hand Sergio Aguero, of Manchester City, has recovered from a muscle strain and may be fit enough to take part.
The Dutch have not suffered further injury trouble since midfielder Nigel de Jong was ruled out after a groin strain suffered against Mexico.
Of course, all eyes will be on Lionel Messi, arguably player of the tournament thus far, whose stunning runs and technical ability have pulled Argentina from the brink several times already. However, to focus exclusively on Messi would be a disservice to several other world class players who will be participating on Wednesday.
Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben have each scored 3 goals so far, with both netting twice against Spain in their opening group game to prove they can compete against top level opposition. Argentina are also packed with attacking talent – boasting Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Rodrigo Palacio; all of whom have recovered from slow starts to make a real impact on the tournament.
Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal has received plaudits as a masterful tactician; with van Persie crediting him as the inspiration for their 5-1 victory over Spain. A controversial switch of goalkeepers in the final minute of extra time also proved decisive as Tim Krul stepped up to save 2 Costa Rica penalties and take his team to the semi-final.
Whilst not as well known outside his home country, Argentina’s manager Alejandro Sabella has built a team around his captain and star player Messi, a decision which has paid dividends. Although repeatedly denying that his side are a one man team, Argentina’s tactics have in large part amounted to giving Messi the ball as quickly as possible.
On paper it would appear that Argentina have a significantly stronger squad than their opposition, however they certainly will not be underestimating the Dutch who have fully merited their place in the final 4. Driven on by a highly respected manager, Holland have shown patience, ability and boundless energy and are seen by many as the tournament’s best performing team so far. Wednesday’s game could easily prove to be the most enthralling yet as two long term rivals battle for a place in the final on Sunday.