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September 30, 2014

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Argentina take on the flying Dutchmen

Argentine coaching staff led by head coach Alejandro Sabella leave the hotel where the Argentine team is staying in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Van Persie in doubt for today’s match due to stomach ailments

Argentina and Holland face each other today in what is predicted to be one of the World Cup’s most intense matches for a spot in the finals. The semifinal winner will meet Germany this Sunday for the final.

In the second semifinal match between a European and South American soccer power after yesterday’s Brazil smashing, Argentina and Holland will face each other today at 5pm in Sao Paulo in what is to be one of the most intense matches of the World Cup.

This comes 36 years after Argentina won against Holland in Buenos Aires 3-2 in the 1978 finals, which allowed them to win their first World Cup ever. Both superstars Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben hadn’t been born then but now they carry the weight of their countries’ history in the duel that awaits them today.

Messi has four goals to his name, while Robben and Robin Van Persie each have three. Argentine forward Gonzalo Higuaín finally appearing in the last game converting a goal that permitted Argentina to send Belgium back home in the quarterfinals. The Lionel Messi inspired Argentina have won all five of their matches in Brazil albeit by one-goal margins while the Netherlands swept all before them in the first round, but it has been tougher ever since for them as they just barely beat Costa Rica in their last match. Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella will be fielding a team that will lack star midfielder Angel Di María, who is an essential centerpiece due to his speed and unrelenting work ethic, after he pulled a muscle in the quarterfinal match against Belgium. With Di María recovering and forward Sergio Agüero still on the bench (after being out in the last two matches due to injury) of the “fantastic four” Argentina will only have two stars on the pitch today: Messi and Higuaín.

Holland will also likely not reach the semifinal showdown today at full power, as their star finisher Van Persie was suffering from a stomach ailment that impeded him from training with the team yesterday putting in doubt his presence. The team led by Dutch coach Luis van Gaal struggled to beat Costa Rica in their quarterfinal match, having to go into overtime, only to eventually win on penalties against the Central Americans.

This was the first time that the flying dutchmen had won a game without making a goal in this World Cup. Despite this, Holland can’t be ruled out as it has a ferocious attack.

It will be a matchup of arguably the two best attacks in the tournament. No less than five of the world’s best forwards could be on the field, which would normally raise expectations of a flurry of goals and end-to-end attacking football.

The Dutch hope to reach their fourth World Cup final although they have faced the life long frustration of never winning the trophy, including the last South Africa 2010 final when Robben and company once again were left at the gates of paradise losing to Spain. But the Orange paid the Spanish back in full this time at the group stage, when they destroyed them by 5-1 at the start of the tournament. Could this same fate await Argentina?

Due to a combination of factors, it seems very unlikely that this game will have a similar result to that match or yesterday’s trouncing of Brazil since both teams have a solid defence, with only three goals received by Argentina and four by Holland. Furthermore, in these final stages the level of play focuses on winning and not committing unnecessary mistakes in a bid to ensure their passage to the Sunday final in Rio de Janeiro. Both teams have several strengths in common: they both are comfortable in their counterattacks, they both work well as a team and when they recover a ball they are able to put it in the opposing team’s goal, although the Argentine team touches the ball a bit more in search of better spaces to move towards to.

Along with counting on the Messi-Higuaín duo, Argentina will have the support of Ezequiel Lavezzi on the attack and on the left flank they will have Marcos Rojo who is an aggressive defender, who returns to the field after fulfilling a suspension due to two yellow cards he received in the previous matches.

“We will try to stop Holland from moving in a group, preventing Robben from racing down the field and touching the ball,” said Sabella in yesterday’s evening press conference. The Argentine coach believed that his team had improved a lot but that in today’s upcoming match they would have to pick it up a notch, “we need to play at the same level and better then we did against Belgium in order to win tomorrow,” said Sabella with his customary humility.

Van Gaal, on the otherhand, seemed overly confident when responding to how they would be able to mark Messi, “We will win against Argentina...we always speak of teams, not of an individual player...we have a plan.”

This did not seem to worry Messi at all after he posted in Facebook yesterday, “We wish that tomorrow is a historic day for Argentine soccer, we really want to win it.” Messi will pass Diego Maradona’s record in having played the most games for the Argentine team, although he is a long way away from Javier Zanetti, the man who holds the record. His fellow teammate, centre midfielder Javier Mascherano who acts as the stopgate between the defensive and offensive sides of the team, anticipated that the match “will be very tough... Netherlands is a great team and they do almost everything right.” But he believes that Argentina still has a lot to show, “We have to make the most of our game. We didn’t show all we’ve got, but that was in part because of the way our rivals play.”

Herald with AP

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