Good morning, everyone. Yesterday was quite a day at the World Cup – one few will forget. But let’s hope today’s semifinal is more of a game. I have high hopes. Now to my prediction.
Argentina 2 (4) Netherlands 2 (3)
Argentina will need to get another big game out of Gonzalo Higuain if they hope to win today. His ability to hold up the ball will be vital as his team will concede a lot of possession to the Dutch. Argentina’s midfield was impressive against Belgium, but they will need to be extra disciplined defensively, as Arjen Robben running at the left side of the Argentina defense remains frightening to think about. Javier Mascherano might be the key in this game in front of his back four, especially if he can keep Wesley Sneijder off the score sheet. His ability to break up play could disrupt any flow the Dutch want to find. Offensively, Pablo Zabaleta could find a lot of success getting in behind the Dutch wing backs. If he can get to the byline, Higuain will convert the chances. Lionel Messi also must be at or near his best, but the Dutch center backs aren’t as physical as Belgium’s were, which could help Messi out.
Netherlands will hope Robin van Persie recovers from his stomach bug in time to make the starting 11. Personally, I can’t see the former Arsenal man missing a semifinal with that type of illness, but you never know how sick he actually is. If he can’t play, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar would be the obvious replacement. The two forwards are different players, but they both could find success against a shaky Argentinian back four. The other key for the Dutch is whether Nigel de Jong can make a miraculous return to fitness in time to take a few whacks at Messi. If the referee isn’t calling many fouls, physicality in the midfield could determine the match. Offensively, the Dutch will look to attack down the right all night. Robben is due for another superb performance, and he will be licking his lips knowing who he is up against.
Assuming van Persie plays, I think the Dutch will score first. Ron Vlaar will get on the end of a Wesley Sneijder free kick, nodding home the opener. From there, Messi will begin to impact the match, releasing Pablo Zabaleta down the right time after time. After a couple near misses, a cross will find the head of Higuain, and the game will be tied at half. The second half will start brightly for the Dutch, who will seize the lead through a curling effort from Robben. Sergio Romero won’t stand a chance in net. Having started the game on the bench, Sergio Agüero will come on as Argentina looks for the tying goal late on. An error in defense will gift Agüero a chance in the box, and his shot will deflect towards Messi, who will deservedly get the all-important goal.
Extra time will be a boring at times, as both defenses fear the opposing counter attacks against heavy legs. It will turn into a stop-and-start affair in the midfield, with De Jong getting sent off late on. When the Dutch go down a man, they will be forced to use their final substitute to shore up the defense. Having withstood the final few minutes of Argentina’s attacks, Netherlands will safely get to penalty kicks with only ten men, albeit without spot-kick hero Tim Krul. Romero will guess correctly early on, and Argentina will take the early lead in pk’s. A late miss from Agüero won’t prove costly, as a second mistake from the Dutch will grant Argentina the chance to win it. Messi will bury it, and we’ll have an Argentina-Germany final.
I’ll have analysis after the game, and hopefully there’ll be some Arsenal news to write about in the coming days. Have a great day.