Brazil’s 7-1 walloping from the mean, efficient German machine would have sent warning signals to tonight’s semifinalists; apart from the blanket of doom it cast over the host nation. The second successive South America vs Europe battle is likely to work under ‘safety first’ net, as both teams have unfavourable history to overcome. Here’s a look at how it shapes up for two great footballing nations.
What works for Argentina
– Argentina haven’t played close to their best and yet find themselves in the semis – a sign of an efficient team, yet to hit peak.
– Star marksman Sergio Aguero is available for selection, although personally I prefer him as a substitute.
– Argies have the highest possession percentage (64%) and maximum shots at goals (87), amongst all the 32 competing nations.
– They had an efficient quarter final game versus a strong Belgian unit and an extra day’s rest.
– Netherlands would have likely drained after they struggled past Costa Rica with help of penalties.
– The stars favour one Leo Messi. There is belief that this will be ‘the year’ just like as it was for Maradona in 1986. After all, this has been Albiceleste’s best run in the quadrennial event in two decades.
– Historically, whenever the event has been hosted in the Americas, only South American teams have won it.
– The defence – Garay Rojo Demichelis Zabaleta – have shown solidity and do have big game experience. They neutralized gifted Eden Hazard (a Robben type player) very well.
– The young Dutch defence lack that experience and will be susceptible to cards since they haven’t faced anyone of the calibre of Messi. They will miss a defensive midfielder too since Nigel De Jong is out.
– Arjen Robben is will be in the official’s radar for suspect dramatic dives.
What works for Netherlands
– The Dutch are popularly known as the ‘best nation never to have won a World Cup’. Hence motivation to surpass, what their national legends have done previously, will be sky high for this outfit.
– Argentina have a poor 35% win stat over European opposition in World Cups.
– Netherlands have much superior head to head record in world cup over their rivals; losing only once, winning four times and drawing thrice.
– They will get complete crowd support, as Brazilians won’t ever support their neighbours.
– Dennis Bergkamp catapulted to megastar status after his brilliant winner in 1998 QF over the Albiceleste. A Van Persie or a Robben will look to emulate that.
– Historically while the Dutch have been poor in penalty shootouts, Louis Van Gaal checked that trend with a good gamble. If it goes to penalties, tonight, the Orange will start favourites.
– The Dutch have a more compact defence than what Argentina have encountered in the tournament so far.
– Louis Van Gaal is a proven and master tactician.
– Argentina’s third best player (after Messi and Garay) in this event, Angel Di Maria, is injured.
– Arjen Robben is one of the players of the tournament and has a great chance to overshadow Messi, again, just like he did in Bayern Munich’s wins over Barcelona.
Prediction: It will be a tight contest and Argentina will prevail 2-1 (possibly in extra time).
Neutrals won’t mind a third placed clash between the two South American rivals – the El Classico of international football. They won’t also mind a Europe vs South America final. All to play for, as the world awaits with bated breath.