Holland v Argentina – Semi-Final Goal Glee
Holland v Argentina
As the only two sides to win all their games to date, Argentina’s clash with the Netherlands could hardly be more finely poised but as the pressure reaches boiling point, who will hold their nerve?
Gonzalo Higuain’s early strike against Belgium in their quarter-final, his first of an otherwise disappointing competition, ensured Argentina’s safe passage to the last four after there were no further goals.
Angel Di Maria had done likewise in extra-time against Switzerland in the last 16 although their reliance on Lionel Messi is still blatantly obvious, and the Barcelona ace has hit four of his side’s eight goals in this World Cup and created Di Maria’s goal against the Swiss with a trademark dribble and beautifully weighted pass. The two-time winners of the competition are in the last four for the first time in 24 years and have won their previous three World Cup semi-finals.
The Netherlands had to come through a penalty shootout against tournament over-achievers Costa Rica in their quarter-final after they couldn’t break down a stubborn Ticos rearguard in two hours of goalless and frustrating football.
Coach Louis van Gaal had plans for such an outcome though and made the unusual, but ultimately inspired, decision to bring on goalkeeper Tim Krul specifically for the penalties at the end of extra-time. The Newcastle stopper employed some fairly graceless but hugely effective tactics to intimidate the Costa Rican penalty takers and saved two while Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie and Dirk Kuyt all scored from the spot to send the Oranje through to the semi-final.
After coasting through the group stages in very promising fashion the Dutch have laboured to wins in the knockout phase though they have come back from falling behind to win three times over the past three weeks.
Argentine boss Alex Sabella looks likely to be without Di Maria for this game after the Real Madrid playmaker limped out of their win over Belgium in the first half and his loss would be severely felt in an otherwise uninspiring midfield. Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero could be back in contention despite sitting out on their quarter-final victory. Marcos Rojo is available again after serving a one-match suspension.
With Nigel de Jong already confirmed as out for the rest of the tournament, Van Gaal was dealt another blow to his side’s defensive unit with an injury to Ron Vlaar as the Aston Villa defender is suffering from a knee problem while Bruno Martins Indi is also still not 100 percent fit and Leroy Fer remains doubtful.
There’s been no fewer than eight meetings between these teams, with the most recent coming in the group stages of the 2006 World Cup in Germany which finished goalless.
Half of the games played out between these teams have actually been at World Cup tournaments, and Argentina have only ever beaten the Dutch once,
…although that came in the biggest tie the countries have ever played out – the 1978 World Cup Final which they won 3-1. A more recent memorable knockout tie came in France 98 when Dennis Bergkamp’s wonder goal in the final minute sent his side through.
As the new tournament favourites at 12/5, with the Dutch the least fancied of the last four at 7/2 to lift the trophy, it makes sense that Argentina are 7/5 to win in 90 minutes here against a side who look slightly overpriced for me at 12/5.
Despite clean sheets for both in the last round against tentative opponents, I can see goals here to buck the recent trend so take both teams to score in normal time at 11/10 and over 2.5 to go in at 6/4.