World Cup semi-finals. Netherlands vs Argentina preview.
The teams, posessing arguably two best attacking lines at the World Cup, but have shown cautious football in play-off round, face each other in the semifinals.
Road to success
The Dutch crushed holding champions Spain 5-1 in the opening game, outplayed Australia 3-2 and Chile 2-0, and won the group. Howeve, play-off round wasn’t that easy as Netherlands escaped a defeat from Mexico with minutes remaining till the end of the game and went on to win 2-1, while it took them 120 minutes and penalty shoot-out to make it past surprise presence Costa Rica.
Argentina won all of their previous five games with a narrow margin of one goal. They were victories over Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-1, Iran 1-0, Nigeria 3-2, Switzerland 1-0 and Belgium 1-0.
Netherlands harrassed inexperienced Costa Rica for 120 minutes, but failed to score and had to make it through penalty shoot-out. Louis Van Gaal replaced Jasper Cilessen with Tim Krul one minute before the end of the match and Newcastle United goalkeeper saved two shots. Netherlands squad: Cilessen (Krul, 120+), de Vrij, Vlaar, Martins Indi (Huntelaar, 106), Kuyt, Wijnaldum, Blind, Depay (Lens, 76), Sneijder, van Persie, Robben.
Higuain fired past Thibaut Courtois eight minutes into the game and Argentina marched on to save the score and make it to the last four. Squad: Romero, Zabaleta, Garay, Demichelis, Basanta, Mascherano, Biglia, Di Maria (Perez, 33), Lavezzi (Palacio, 71), Messi, Higuain (Gago, 81).
Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands midfielder: “Robben is as important for us as Messi for Argentina. 2 or 3 players attack him, which creates space for other players”.
Alejandro Sabella conceded Arjen Robben is a major threat for his side: “Robben is a player who can certainly go one-on-one and that way create superiority, so we’ll keep an eye on him for special treatment”.
Injuries and suspensions
Both teams have lost a key player. Netherlands will miss a defensive midfielder Nigel De Jong, while Angel Di Maria, who completed a record 12 shots against Switzerland, was injured during the Belgium match. Besides, Van Gaal will evaluate the state of main striker Robin van Persie, who is suffering from stomach problems, Leroy Fer and Ron Vlaar. Alejandro Sabella will probably replace Di Maria with Enzo Perez.
Netherlands: Cilessen, Martins Indi, Vlaar, de Vrij, Blind, Kuyt, de Guzman, Wijnaldum, Sneijder, Robben, van Persie.
Argentina: Romero, Rojo, Garay, Demichelis, Zabaleta, Mascherano, Gago, Perez, Messi, Aguero, Higuain.
Bookmakers give slightly more odds for Argentina win - 2,40, with 3,10 for Holland.
photo: Getty Images
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