Netherlands battle Argentina for a place in the World Cup Wednesday in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.

  • By Michael Bell
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nethargNobody fancied the Dutch to go far in the World Cup, but now Louis van Gaal’s side are a game away from performing in their 2nd World Cup final in a row. Standing in Netherlands way are Argentina, who are inspired by their superstar forward Lionel Messi, and it will be a big task for the Dutch to progress.

The task could be even greater for the Dutch with news that striker Robin van Persie could miss out with a stomach injury, but Van Gaal has stated that he will wait until the last minute for his star striker to prove his fitness. Better news on the injury front is the fact that Nigel de Jong could make a surprise return to the starting eleven after seemingly having his tournament ended by a groin injury, while Ron Vlaar is available again after a knee complaint.

Likely Netherlands XI: 5-3-2 Cillessen, Kuyt, Blind, Vlaar, De Vrij, Martins Indi, De Jong, Wijnaldum, Sneijder, Robben, Van Persie

After the disappointing performance against Costa Rica, which saw Netherlands fail to win in 90 minutes despite spending most of the match camped in their oppositions half, Van Gaal is likely to turn back to his 5-3-2 formation. The Dutch coach will hope De Jong can shackle Lionel Messi, and that Arjen Robben can punish the Argentine defence on the break.

Argentina have been dealt a major blow before the game after it was announced that Angel di Maria will miss the rest of the tournament, although they do have Sergio Aguero fit again.

Likely Argentina XI: Romero, Zabaleta, Rojo, Demichelis, Garay, Mascherano, Gago, Perez, Messi, Higuain, Aguero

Lionel Messi has been the inspiration behind Argentina’s run to the semi-finals so far, but that hasn’t stopped some critics having a go at Argentina for not being clinical enough going forward. At times Argentina have had to rely on their defence, which has been impressive so far, conceding only three goals in five game.

History:

Netherlands and Argentina have met each other on eight occasions with four of those coming in World Cup finals. The first meeting saw Johan Cruyff inspire the Dutch to a 4-0 win, but the Argentines got their revenge four years later when they defeated Netherlands in the World Cup final. That win has proven to be Argentina’s only victory over the Oranje, with two draws, and three Netherlands wins since. The last Dutch victory in a World Cup came in 1998 when Dennis Bergkamp scored his famous goal in a 2-1 win.

Key Match-ups:

Lionel Messi v Ron Vlaar

Ron Vlaar has been a rock at the centre of Netherlands defence so far, but against Lionel Messi he will come up against his biggest challenge. The Barcelona star is enjoying his best World Cup in his career, and many believe its written in the stars that he will be the man to lift the trophy on Sunday.

Wesley Sneijder v Javier Mascherano

Against Costa Rica in the quarter finals Wesley Sneijder was close to his top form, coming close to scoring three times while impressing with a range of excellent passes. It will be up to Mascherano to stop Sneijder from controlling the game

Arjen Robben v Martin Demichelis

Robben has been Netherlands key player so far in the tournament, terrifying defences with his blistering pace and excellent dribbling skills. If Netherlands are to beat Argentina then there is no doubt Robben will be behind it. Demichelis is not the fastest defender in the world, and he will need to be at the top of his game to prevent Robben from running riot.

Conclusion:

Netherlands have done brilliantly to get to the semi-finals, and if they perform at their top level then they have a great chance of beating Argentina. Shackling Messi will be key to a victory which would go a long way in killing the ghosts of 1978 and that controversial final defeat.

Nobody expected the Dutch to get this far, but one more big performance and Netherlands will be World Cup finalists.

Hup Holland Hup!




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