The semi-finals are upon us and what a selection of games they are. Here @0riginalfooty takes a look at the second match between the Netherlands and Argentina.
Both sides come into this match having been involved in nervy contests in the last two rounds. The Netherlands needed two late goals against Mexico and then heroics from substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul in a penalty shootout against Costa Rica to reach this stage. Argentina required a Di Maria goal deep in extra time to secure victory over the Swiss and then a brilliant and instinctive volley from Higuain to give them a lead to hold on to against the Belgians. This will be a far bigger challenge for both sides and it remains to be seen who will step up to the plate and deliver.
Argentina have been rocked by the news that Angel Di Maria will miss the match through injury. This is a huge blow for the Argentines as, behind Messi, Di Maria is one of their most creative forces and has the ability to cause problems for any side he faces. Sergio Aguero is due to return but he has been so injury prone this season that it could be seen as a gamble to see him risked from the start. The Netherlands are without Nigel De Jong for the rest of the tournament, a player that really adds bite to their midfield and he could be sorely missed against the Argentines on Wednesday evening.
There is one standout player for each side that we can expect to make the difference: Arjen Robben and Lionel Messi. Both players have been vitally important to their respective sides in their path to the semi-finals and will be crucial to both teams’ hopes of reaching the final. Messi will really fancy his chances running at Holland’s three centre backs and they will have to be extremely careful in guarding against his runs from deep, whilst also keeping Gonzalo Higuain at bay. Equally, Robben will happily run at Basanta or Rojo all day long and Garay will have to be mindful to offer cover to his left back whenever he needs it. I’m expecting both players to get some joy in this match so don’t be surprised to see them grab a goal or an assist each. Whoever copes with the opposition’s superstar better will most likely come out on top.
The Netherlands will be aware that this Argentina side are yet to be behind in the competition and will be keen to change this, placing pressure on the Argentine’s that they are yet to experience in the tournament. Both sides do seem to be full of battle and bite and although reliant on Messi and Robben there have been character-filled performances from the likes of Javier Mascherano and Ron Vlaar who are players who won’t give up without a fight and could play just as important a role as the flair players who are expected to get them over the line. I’m expecting, and hoping, that we will be treated to a thrilling, high-scoring encounter between two sides craving victory frantically. It’s a tough match to call and could come down to a moment of misery or magic but I’m backing Messi and Argentina to scrape through. Messi is desperate for World Cup glory and there seems to be little anyone can do to stop him.
Prediction: Netherlands 2-3 Argentina