Following as shocking a once-in-a-generation World Cup outcome as the German dismantling of Brazil Tuesday, few expect such a lopsided result when Argentina meets The Netherlands in Sao Paolo Wednesday at 4 p.m. Eastern time.
In head-to-head international competition, these two nations have played eight times, with The Netherlands winning four, Argentina winning once, and three draws. Wednesday's semifinal is a rematch of the 1978 World Cup final, in which Argentina defeated Holland.
As we mentioned in an earlier post, Lionel Messi is the main man in the Argentine attack. Angel di María would have concerned the Dutch as well, but he's out due to injury. However, if Messi's closely guarded, another Argentine worth watching could be Sergio Argüero, as Andrew Das of The New York Times points out.
Agüero is a lethal finisher with his club team, Manchester City, but he and Messi have not always meshed well for the national team. If they can sort that out in the absence of di María, or at least stay out of each other’s way enough to allow Messi to provide for Agüero’s proven killer instinct, the Dutch defense could be in trouble.
So far in the World Cup tournament this year, The Netherlands has scored 12 goals in five matches, resulting in four wins and a draw. Argentina has only scored seven goals while winning all five games.
For the Dutch, Arjen Robben leads in scoring with three goals and an assist. Some observers might say Robben, along with other of the Orange, could be given acting awards during the World Cup for the way they collapse on the ground after coming in contact with opponents.
Rick Maese of The Washington Post says of Robben:
For fans, he’s one of the most exciting and infuriating players on the pitch. He’s always around the ball, has a motor that doesn’t stop — but also has a propensity for theatrical dives.
Another critical player for The Netherlands is Robin van Persie, who has also scored three goals in the World Cup. But he has been battling illness in recent days and could force a last-minute decision by head coach Louis van Gaal whether or not to play him.
As some sports observers in the United States might say, both Argentina and the Netherlands "travel well," meaning thousands of fans will follow their team almost anywhere to see them play. And when it comes to the World Cup every quadrennial, fans save vacation time as well as hard earned pay to hit the road in support of their country's national team.
In this case, both nations will have plenty of their citizenry in the stands at Arena de Sao Paolo for the second 2014 World Cup semifinal match. Argentina, due to its proximity to the host country Brazil, will have a slight advantage. But certainly there has been no shortage of folks dressed in all form of orange to root for the Dutch.
And Dutch fans are the soccer equivalent of the Chicago Cubs fans: Long suffering, loyal supporters of a team that's never won a World Cup. The perennial bridesmaids have been runners-up in 1974, 1978, and 2010. Will the spell be broken at the 2014 World Cup?
Argentina vs. the Netherlands can be seen on ESPN and Univision, as well as live streaming on each of the broadcasters' websites.