2014 World Cup Semifinals: Argentina vs The Netherlands

2014 FIFA World Cup – Semifinals
Argentina vs Netherlands 
Arena Corinthians – São Paulo, Brazil
Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 4:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN, Univision
Money Line: Argentina +140 / Netherlands +215 / Draw +220
Point Line: Argentina Pick -145 / Netherlands Pick +125
Total: over 2 -115 / under 2 -105
Odds to advance to final: Argentina -140 / Netherlands +120
All odds courtesy of Bookmaker 

Argentina is a slight favorite against Netherlands in the World Cup semifinals Wednesday in Sao Paulo.
Argentina is a slight favorite against Netherlands in the World Cup semifinals Wednesday in Sao Paulo.

FIFA caught a huge break with the four teams that advanced to the semifinals of the World Cup. Brazil, Germany, Argentina, and the Netherlands are all traditional powers loaded with superstars who all have history against each other. The quartet have combined to win 10 of the 19 previous World Cup’s contested. It would be the equivalent of Duke, North Carolina, UCLA and Indiana making college basketball’s Final Four in the same season. Brazil faces Germany in the first semifinal Tuesday, while Argentina faces the Netherlands Wednesday in Sao Paulo in the second. The winners will meet in the Championship game Sunday in the famed Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

The Netherlands leads the series 4-1-3 against Argentina. They have met four times in the World Cup in 1974, 1978, 1998 and 2006. The Dutch are 2-1-1 against Argentina in the World Cup. Argentina beat the Netherlands 3-1 in added time in the 1978 World Cup Championship game. They played to a scoreless draw in the group stage of the World Cup in 2006, the last meeting between the teams.

Argentina is making their 16th appearance in the World Cup and 11th straight. Argentina has won two World Cups but none since since 1986. They lost in the final in 1990, and advanced to the semifinals this year for the first time since then. Argentina was crushed by Germany 4-0 in the quarterfinals in 2010.

Argentina was placed into Group F of the 2014 World Cup along with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria. It isn’t clear where Argentina would be without world class striker Lionel Messi. He scored a goal to make the score 2-0 in the second half against Bosnia, and Argentina would hold on for the 2-1 win. He scored a goal in stoppage time against Iran to prevent an embarrassing scoreless draw. He also scored 2 first half goals against Nigeria in a match Argentina would win 3-2 to clinch first place in the group. Messi came into the World Cup with only one other goal in two previous appearances.

Argentina played Switzerland in the round of 16. The game was scoreless through regulation and most of extra time. It looked like the match was heading towards penalties until Angel Di Maria scored at 118 minutes to give Argentina a 1-0 win. Argentina beat Belgium in the quarterfinals Saturday in Brasilia 1-0 on a goal from Gonzalo Higuain eight minutes in.

Argentina had 10 shots including 7 on target. Belgium had 10 and 4. Belgium had 14 fouls to 11 for Argentina. Argentina had a slim edge in possession at 51%. Belgium had 4 corners to 3 for Argentina. Belgium had saves to 4 for Argentina. Belgium was called offsides 6 times and Argentina only once.

Argentina is coached by Alejandro Sabella. Argentina will use a 4-2-3-1 formation. Lionel Messi has scored 4 of the 8 goals for Argentina. Marcos Rojo, Angel Di Maria and Higuain are the  only other Argentine players to score as Bosnia scored an own goal. Left-back Rojo returns to the line-up after missing the Belgium game with yellow cards. Di Maria is out with an injury but could return for either the third place or championship matches this weekend. Talented striker Sergio Aguero could return to the line-up after missing the last two matches with a muscle strain.. Ezequiel Lavezzi or Rodrico Palacio could start in place of Aguero. Keeper Sergio Romero has allowed 3 goals, and sometimes has to clean up the messes of an inconsistent backline.

Argentina is outscoring teams 8-3 in the World Cup. Argentina has 7 open play and 1 set piece goal. Argentina has 87 shots with 56 on target. Argentina has completed 26 of 139 crosses and has only been called offsides twice. Argentina has 16 blocks and 14 saves. They have won 26 of 86 tackles. Argentina has completed 2,438 passes.

The Netherlands are playing in their 10th World Cup. They have never won it but were runner-ups 3 times including in 2010 to Spain.

When the draw came out in December for the World Cup, Group B was widely considered one of the most treacherous of the 8 groups with defending champion Spain, runner up the Netherlands, a very good Chile  team and dark horse Australia. The Netherlands dominated the group with three wins over Spain 5-1, Australia 3-2 and against Chile 2-0.

The Netherlands played Mexico in the Round of 16 Sunday in Fortaleza. Mexico took a 1-0 lead at 48 minutes on a goal from Giovani dos Santos. They held that lead until 88 min when Wesley Sneijder tied it up for the Dutch. Late in stoppage time, officials awarded the Netherlands a penalty kick when Mexico’s Rafa Marquez appeared to trip Arjen Robben in the box. Replays showed Robben embellished  somewhat to get the call as there was very little contact. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar buried the penalty kick and the Dutch escaped with the 2-1 win.

The Netherlands played unlikely quarterfinalist Costa Rica in the next round Saturday . Despite dominating possession and peppering the Costa Rican net with shots, the Dutch could not break through and score. Even in added time, the score remained a 0 for both sides. Costa Rica would survive the onslaught and send it into penalties. Just before the end of extra time, Dutch manager Louis van Gaal subbed in backup keeper Tim Krul for starter Jasper Cillissen because Krul is better at stopping penalties. The gamble of bringing in an ice cold keeper worked as Krul stopped two Costa Rican shots and the Netherlands made their first four shots to win 4-3 and survive a valiant effort by Costa Rica.

The Netherlands had 20 shots and 15 on target. Costa Rica had just 6 shots and 3 on target. The Dutch had 15 fouls to 13 for Costa Rica. Netherlands had possession for 64% of the time. The Dutch had 11 corners to 1 for Costa Rica. Costa Rican keeper Keylor Navas made 14 saves to keep Los Ticos in the game. The Dutch mad only 3 saves the whole game. The Netherlands were called offsides 13 times to just twice for Costa Rica.

The Netherlands is coached by Louis van Gaal. He will use a 3-4-1-2 line-up. Forwards Robin Van Persie and  Arjen Robben have scored 6 of the 12 goals so far for the Netherlands, each with 3. Memphis Depay has 2 goals but he is expected to come off the bench against Costa Rica. Midfielder Nigel De Jong is out for the rest of the World Cup with a groin injury. Ron Vlaar and Leroy Fer are both doubtful with injuries.  Keeper Jasper Cillisen has allowed 4 goals in five games.

The Netherlands has 12 goals and allowed 4 but surprisingly only one of the goals have come off set pieces. Eleven were open play goals. The Dutch have 75 shots including 56 on target. The Netherlands are 23/89 on crosses and have been called offsides 21 times. The Dutch have 9 blocks and 12 saves. The Dutch have won 21 of 73 tackles. They have completed 1,360 passes.

Both Argentina and the Netherlands looked good in group play but have struggled somewhat in the knockout stages. Both have made it to the semifinals though and that is all that matters. I think Argentina finds a way to win a close match in nearby yet hostile Brazil.

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