FIFA World Cup 2014 Semifinal Preview – Netherlands vs Argentina

By Marcus Louison

Wednesday July 9th


The dust has hardly settled on what was surely a seismic day in international sport. Die Mannschaft served up a treat of quintessential attacking symmetry. Their brilliance, perfectly allied with a shambolic Brazilian display, provided a result far beyond any level of practical analytical comprehension. It’s time for Act #2 in the Europe vs South America semifinal showdowns, and though matching drama is unlikely, this clash is chock full of ingredients for another potentially pulse-pounding World Cup affair. This is a rematch of the 1998 World Cup quartefinal in Marseille; A match that saw the consistently classy Dennis Bergkamp conjure up a breathtaking matchwinner with three touches of pure genius. The Oranje will be hoping for the same result today, as they bid to set up a rematch on Sunday, and reverse their fortunes, after losing the 1974 Final vs Germany (West). La Albicileste will be looking to avenge that Dutch defeat, as they will relish the opportunity to defeat the Germans (West) in a Final, just as they did in 1986. 


Angel Di Maria will miss the semifinal after injuring his thigh while shooting vs Belgium. This is likely to leave a sizable hole in the Argentinean midfield, as they have relied heavily on the direct running and overall midfield excellence of the Real Madrid man. The impressive Marcos Rojo returns from suspension, and should come straight back in at left back. Sergio Aguero has returned from a 3-match injury lay-off, and will look to his force his way into the starting lineup ahead of the goal-shy Ezequiel Lavezzi

Holland are sweating on the fitness of captain Robin Van Persie, as he’s been training alone while suffering from a minor stomach complaint. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is a more than worthy replacement, and will be chomping at the bit to deputize should the Dutch skipper fail a late fitness test. Midfield terrier Nigel De Jong is pushing for a return to the starting lineup after returning to first team training on Monday. De Jong was initially ruled out of the tournament after injuring his groin vs Mexico, but his dogged qualities are clearly not limited to the field of play. Center back Ron Vlaar  has also been a doubt, but should be fit to take his place in the three man back line.


Both managers have shown a penchant for tactical variation, but Alejandro Sabella is set to stick with the 4-3-3 that has served him well since the failed experiment with the 5-3-2 in the first half vs Bosnia. Given the personnel at hand, especially the plethora of attacking talent, this is a system that is far more suitable. Martin Demichilis should have just done enough vs Belgium to keep his place vs Ezequiel Garay at center back, and defensive chemistry and solidity will be key as Argentina seek to keep Holland’s world class attacking trio quiet. Javier Mascherano has long been seen as Argentina’s main dog-of-war, and he’ll have to be on his toes to snuff out the midfield prompting of Wesley Sneijder as well as the rapid-fire runs of Arjen Robben. Lucas Biglia will provide extra cover, but his contribution offensively will also be important if the blow of Di Maria’s absence is to be cushioned. The deservedly maligned Fernando Gago may regain his place in midfield, and will need to up his performance levels ten-fold to enhance Argentina’s chances of midfield superiority.

We’ve seen the Dutch play 3-4-3, 5-3-2 and 4-3-3 at these Finals, as the tactically innovative Louis Van Gaal shuffles his pack depending on the personnel available. Holland looked comfortable in a new-look 3-4-3 vs Costa Rica, but much prefer the 5-3-2 that has served them so well for the lionshare of the tournament. The fitness of Nigel De Jong is key, and a potential return to the starting lineup for him should see a reversion to the latter. Individual mistakes among the Dutch back 3 have been apparent at times, albeit not costly, and concentration will need to at max-levels as tensions rise in Sao Paulo, especially with a certain Leo Messi in close attendance.


Tactical set-ups and all-around team performances are obviously integral to success at this level, but this match may come down to the X-factors, and for Holland and Argentina, Arjen Robben and Leo Messi are players that have been of paramount importance. The Dutch has relied heavily on the pace, energy, dribbling, directness, goal-scoring, and even the diving of Arjen Robben ( sad but true). Messi provided match marvelous match winners in each of the three group stage matches, and laid the winner on a plate for Di Maria vs Switzerland in extra time. Which star man will prove more crucial on the day? It’s all set up for a fascinating contest..




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