The Netherlands and Argentina are two nations that will feel as though they’ve never quite fulfilled their potential on the international stage. They’re teams that have boasted some of the greatest players to have ever played the game and yet they have only won two World Cups between them.
Nonetheless they do have an illustrious history when it comes to the World Cup and have played out some contests that have been rife with iconic moments.
The two met in the 1978 final—a game regarded by many as one of the greatest finals ever—in front of swathes of Argentinean supporters; Mario Kempes inspired the Albiceleste to victory that day. They locked horns in the quarter-final 20 years later too, when a stunning late goal from Dennis Bergkamp made the difference that day.
They’ll write another chapter in their World Cup rivalry in 2014, as the two battle it out for a spot in the final on July 13 at Brazil’s iconic Maracana. Here are all the details you need ahead of what promises to be a gripping contest.
Alejandro Sabella will be without Angel di Maria for this one after the midfielder limped off in the quarter-final against Belgium. The Albiceleste boss has been handed though, with the news the Sergio Aguero is available to play. Argentina will also welcome Marcos Rojo to the squad; he missed the clash with Belgium due to suspension.
Louis van Gaal will be hoping that Ron Vlaar and Leroy Fer can both shake off knocks to be fit for this one. In a positive to the Dutch boss, Nigel de Jong was able to take part in training ahead of this clash despite reports suggesting he was set to miss the rest of the tournament. There are also concerns about Robin van Persie, who is a doubt for the semi-final with a stomach problem.
How do the Dutch stop Lionel Messi?
Argentina’s No.10 has been simply superb throughout the course of this tournament. He’s been at his scintillating best despite enduring a domestic campaign that was punctured by loss of form and fitness, and it’ll be intriguing to see how Van Gaal looks to stifle the influence of the Barcelona man.
The Dutch have been tactically flexible throughout the course of this tournament, with Van Gaal making a host of subtle changes during the competition in order to tailor the Oranje’s game towards shutting down their opponents. So just as the Netherlands boss has done in every game so far, you suspect he’ll have a master-plan to stop Messi too.
Van Gaal could instruct a player like Daley Blind or De Jong to do a man-marking job on Messi, but that would potentially compromise the cohesive, collective defensive shape that the Dutch have instilled this tournament. So expect the Dutch to work exceptionally hard to cut off Messi’s supply line, and close off those little pockets he loves to drift into.