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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project