Photo: Arjen Robben and Lionel Messi (Getty Images)
The European powerhouse referred to as the 'perennial bridesmaid' of world football the Netherlands, is keen to make it two World Cup finals on the trot much like 1974 and 1978. The Oranje faces Argentina who defeated them in the 1978 final and will be seeking revenge for that defeat. Argentina however will have revenge on their minds as well for their 1998 quarter-final exit at the hands of Dennis Bergkamp's Dutch team.
This is another heavyweight clash with two of the world's best locking horns in Sao Paolo. There is a lot riding on this match and both teams will he heading into this fixture thinking they can get the better of each other. The Dutch has been more clinical in front of goal finding the back of the net 12 times in their 5 games so far, failing to score only in the quarter-final against Costa Rica. They have conceded 4 goals however which is something that Louis van Gaal may want to address. Argentina on the other hand has scored just 8 goals in the tournament but allowed just 3 into their net.
Lionel Messi has been the main source of goals for Argentina having scored four times and also bagging an assist as well. The four times World Player of the Year will have to produce another masterclass in attack if the Albiceleste is to advance to the final. He will be needed even more now that Angel Di Maria has been ruled out of this fixture. Alejandro Sabella can be a bit relieved to have Sergio Aguero back fit and ready to play according to the team doctor. First choice left back Marcos Rojo is also available after missing the victory over Belgium due to suspension.
Louis van Gaal has been the best coach at the World Cup so far. His tactical changes have worked wonders for the Oranje and he is one of the main reasons the Netherlands are still in Brazil. He has a slight concern over the fitness of Robin van Persie due to complaints of a stomach problem and the Manchester United striker also sat out training on Tuesday. Van Gaal may still be without Nigel De Jong even though the midfield enforcer did some light training on Tuesday.
Jasper Cillessen is expected to keep his place in goal despite Tim Krul's heroics in the penalty shoot-out in the quarter-finals. The defensive rock is expected to be the same with Ron Vlaar partnering Stefan De Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi. Dirk Kuyt should continue at left wing back while Daryl Janmaat could be restored at right wing back even though Georgino Wijnaldum retains his place. Daley Bind will continue in central midfield as well as Wesley Sneijder.
The attack should be led by the fleet-footed Arjen Robben. The 30 year old is in the form of his life and confidence if flowing through his veins. His pace and trickery should worry the Argentinian defense and he should be assisted by Memphis Depay. If van Persie is not fit enough to start the match, Klaas Jan Huntelaar is expected to fill his boots.
Sergio Romero has been in good form throughout the tournament and Sabella will hope it continues but he should be protected by Ezequiel Garay and Martin Demichelis who had a good match against Belgium. Pablo Zabaleta is uncontested at right back while Sporting Lisbon's Marcos Rojo should return from suspension to take his place on the left.
Javier Mascherano will be the man to organize the team in an effort to nullify the threat of the Dutch, especially Robben, and he should be partnered with Lucas Biglia who did a good job in the middle of the park against the Belgians. Messi is the main man in attack especially in the absence of Di Maria and he should be aided by Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Aguero is not expected to start the match but he could play a part in this fixture at some point with Enzo Perez expected to take the place of Di Maria.
In this particular fixture at the FIFA World Cup, the Dutch has the advantage, having won two of their four meetings prior to this one and losing just once. That defeat was in the final in Argentina in 1978 and had to be settled in extra-time. These teams are evenly matched and they both can produce moments of magic but can be dreadful at times. La Albiceleste will have the bulk of the support and will be hoping to make it count but van Gaal stands in their way and the Dutch is hoping he pulls off another victory to book a place in the final that they lost 4 years ago.
Players to Watch
Argentina - Javier Mascherano, Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain
Netherlands - Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Daley Blind