The World Cup is coming to a close as we reach the semi final stage and four of the biggest names of international football are set to battle it out for the prize as Netherlands, Argentina, Germany and Brazil will contest the semi finals. Although some consider them as having been the best side at this World Cup, Netherlands are the only side of the four not to have won the World Cup before, but they are still considered one of the most decorated footballing nations. Meanwhile Argentina are yet to hit the heights that many expected before the tournament, but anything can happen at this stage and they have a great chance of winning the tournament given the riches they possess in their squad.
Netherlands haven’t been as good in the knockout matches as they were in the group stages, however they are still doing enough to get through. They will have to step up their performance against Argentina though, who will threaten the Dutch defence more frequently than either Mexico or Costa Rica did. Although they had to rely on a penalty shootout against Costa Rica, Louis Van Gaal again showed his brilliance as a coach. He opted to replace first choice keeper Jasper Cillessen with Tim Krul as he thought the Newcastle stopper would be best suited for saving penalties due to his longer reach. While he may also have made the change to get into the Costa Ricans’ heads.
Argentina were always going to be among the favourites for the tournaments, so it’s not a shock to see them in the final four, but their level of performance has been under par. Although they have won all of their matches, they have looked far from convincing as every team they have come up against have had chances to win the game. They could be considered as having grown into the tournament as they looked better against Belgium with Gonzalo Higuain scoring a good goal. The defence looked very good as Belgium were limited to few chances.
Netherlands penalty win against Costa Rica was only their second successful shootout in major tournaments having lost four and won one before that.
The game between Argentina and Belgium only had three shots on target which was the lowest in a World Cup knockout game since the 1990 final.
The defender dictates the pace of the Dutch game from the back, due to his impressive passing range. He looks set to complete a move to Porto after the World Cup after impressing in the tournament as he has been used efficiently both in a defensive manner and when it comes to retaining possession. He suffered a concussion earlier in the tournament but he has recovered and slotted straight back into the side, while continuing to maintain decent performances. Against Argentina, he will be crucial as he will have to shackle Lionel Messi, who has produced several moments of brilliance to carry his side so far. The quarter final was only Holland’s second clean sheet of the tournament, with the other coming in the dead rubber against Chile, therefore the Dutch will be well aware that they need to keep Argentina at bay to win this match.
The Barcelona forward is arguably the best player to have ever played the game, but he is still missing the World Cup from his trophy cabinet and he may never get a better chance. At 27, he is approaching his peak years and when the next World Cup comes around, he will be 31 and his powers may be waning. His dribbling abilities are definitely the best in the game at the moment as he can weave his way past opponents with ease as was seen in the round of 16 match against Switzerland as he assisted Angel Di Maria’s winning goal. He has scored four goals in this tournament, while getting one assist. Argentina are built around their talisman, so to beat an impressive Dutch side, they will need Messi to be on top form and create chances in the final third for himself and his side.
Ron Vlaar is a doubt after picking up a knee injury on Saturday, while Jasper Cillessen is expected to retain his position in goal, despite Tim Krul’s penalty heroics. Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben will lead the attacking line, while Memphis Depay is expected to start after impressing in the tournament thus far.
Sergio Aguero will be available to face Holland after missing the Belgium match. Angel di Maria however, is expected to miss the rest of the tournament, which will be a huge miss for Argentina as the Real Madrid midfielder can create something from nothing.
This match is very difficult to predict as Netherlands have been one of the most impressive teams at the tournament, while Argentina have a lot of quality to call upon and have yet to peak at the tournament. Louis Van Gaal has been among the best tactical coaches at this tournament and will probably have something planned to get a result from this semi final. It could be another game that goes all the way to extra time and maybe even penalties. If it does, it would be interesting to see if Van Gaal calls upon Tim Krul again.