Netherlands vs Argentina comment World Cup 2014: Javier Mascherano shakes clear his head to keep on the track of Arjen Robben’s tricks

Midfielder appeared to be concussed in first half

He may not have been as badly stunned as Uruguay’s Alvaro Pereira was against England, but Javier Mascherano did not appear fit to continue for Argentina after taking a blow to the head in the first half of last night’s World Cup semi-final.

Netherlands vs Argentina - as it happened

The former Liverpool midfielder looked as if he could have been back in Anfield for all he knew of it as he was led from the field by medics.

Referee Cuneyt Cakir had immediately called for assistance after Mascherano hit the ground hard following a clash of heads with the Netherlands midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum. However, after briefly lying prone on the ground, Mascherano was helped to his feet, but not before a healing stroke on the head from team captain and talisman Lionel Messi. The four-time Ballon D’Or winner’s magic touch does not, however, extend to his feet and Mascherano’s confused expression as he left the field had Cakir’s rugby equivalent, Nigel Owens, asking what action if any the Turkish official could take.

“I wonder if football referees have the same power as us rugby referees to prevent a player taking further part in the game on safety grounds,” tweeted the Welsh union referee, echoing the sentiments of a nation becoming more and more concerned by the long-term implications of concussion injuries, particularly in rugby union.

 

The sight of the 30-year-old running alongside the referee, nagging him, may or may not have put Owens’ fears to rest, but the Barcelona man did appear back to his old self, which was just as well, given his integral role in Alejandro Sabella’s plan for the containment of Arjen Robben.

Much as he does at Barcelona, Mascherano fulfils a libero role for Argentina – taking the ball from the central defenders, stepping into their place should they advance and, crucially, offering a third dimension to the harassing of Robben.

Video: Netherlands vs Argentina match report
Read more: Netherlands 0 Argentina 0 match report
De Jong sets tone as muzzled Messi meets match
Van Gaal decides against Krul substitution

With the Bayern Munich man on the right wing, he had Marcos Rojo for company and the industrious Ezequiel Lavezzi in front of him whenever the Dutch had possession, and should the ball find its way to Robben, Mascherano was invariably on hand to close all remaining avenues. The Dutch wingman was limited to a single completed pass in the first 45 minutes.

Argentina did not need a troop of scouts to single out Robben as the Netherlands’ greatest attacking threat. Despite not scoring since the second group game against Australia the 30-year-old has been a menace in every match. The fear he generates is well-placed. Almost 95 per cent of Robben’s shots thus far have been on target and the prospect of him finding Robin van Persie with crosses provoked four Costa Rican defenders into bookable offences in their quarter-final.

Argentina were never likely to adopt as conservative an approach as the Central American surprise packages, who deployed a solid bank of five at the back to contain the Dutch, but on the eve of last night’s semi-final Martin Demichelis seemed to advocate some of Costa Rica’s more agricultural Robben-stopping methods.

“Because he doesn’t like physical contact, you have to make him feel it,” Demichelis explained. “You have to get under his skin.”

Argentina’s defensive ploy, and it seemed a solid one, was to prevent Robben, the fastest man on the clock at this World Cup, from getting get one-on-one with the Manchester City defender, who was burned for pace by Phil Bardsley for Sunderland’s goal in the 1-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light in November.

The one time the Netherlands managed to isolate the pair early in the second half Demichelis picked up a booking to stop the dangerman.

Robben’s reaction to the tackle was suitably dramatic, of course, and in stark contrast to that of the dazed and confused Mascherano, who was determined nor to leave the winger unattended.

That proved important, as a superb, stretching tackle from the Argentina midfielder denied Robben in the penalty area in the final minute of regular time and brought extra time

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea