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Why Netherlands are a good bet to beat Argentina – despite Lionel Messi



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Netherlands v Argentina in the World Cup 2014 semifinal - it could come down to Robben v Messi.
Netherlands v Argentina in the World Cup 2014 semifinal – it could come down to Robben v Messi.

Netherlands and Argentina meet in the second semi-final for the right to meet a Germany team that crushed Brazil on Tuesday.

Louis van Gaal took credit for bringing on Tim Krul at the end of extra-time to save two penalties that saw the Netherlands see off Costa Rica in their quarter-final. The European side were held 0-0 through 120 minutes but did hit the frame of the goal on three occasions.

Argentina put in their best performance in beating Belgium 1-0 but created few opportunities following an injury to Ángel di María just after the half hour mark. With Martín Demichelis replacing Federico Fernández in the centre of defence they looked stronger at the back.

Alejandro Sabella’s side have won all five of their games by a single goal, and whilst they’re the only team to have won all of their games, improvements are still needed if they want to beat both the Netherlands and Germany.

Argentina have not clicked in attack yet and with Ángel di María injured, Sabella will have to switch his attacking unit around once again. Sergio Agüero is available again after injury.

The Netherlands are without Nigel de Jong, whilst Leroy Fer is also unlikely to play. That’s an issue for van Gaal to not have either holding midfielder when Lionel Messi is looking for space in that area. Their most-experienced centre-back, Ron Vlaar is also a doubt for this game.

Where the game will be won

This looks it will be a chess match with both managers switching their formations during the tournament. Louis van Gaal will focus on stopping Lionel Messi – perhaps with man or man marking or quick fouls on the Barcelona star.

Argentina have dominated possession in their games but relied on some Lionel Messi magic in the majority of their games to break down opponents who have had several players constantly in and around the penalty area and closing down quickly. The Dutch will do the same to them and then hit them on the counter-attack.

With Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and the pace of Memphis Depay on the counter-attack, the Netherlands should have some success. Robben may look to draw some fouls from Marcos Rojo who has liked to dive in during this tournament.

Javier Mascherano has been a machine in the Argentina midfield but the supporting cast have not looked so secure in helping the former-Liverpool player. The Dutch have used the wings a lot to attack in this tournament which will limit the effectiveness of Mascherano.

Bruno Martins Indi has looked questionable at times in the Netherlands defence and should be where Argentina hone in. The likes of Agüero and Messi should aim for some success running at the left-sided Feyenoord defender.

The verdict

I see Netherlands keeping Lionel Messi quiet in this game, at least for large parts, whilst Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder should be capable of unlocking the Argentina defence.

The Netherlands are 2.15 to join Germany in the final.

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