Argentina and the Netherlands are set to lock horns for a spot at the Maracana Stadium and a shot at immortality. The Argentines beat wildcards Belgium in the quarter-finals thanks to a goal by an impressive Gonzalo Higuain where Alejandro Sabella’s squad finally played as a unit and proved that they do not solely rely on superstar Lionel Messi. Manchester City defender Martin Demichelis could start again for the Albiceleste as he performed brilliantly alongside Ezequiel Garay and proved to be a powerhouse in the air.
Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero has also been cleared by the doctors to play in the semi-finals, although it is not yet certain if he will start for the team, but Angel Di Maria suffered a thigh injury and will probably miss the remainder of the tournament.
The Oranje eliminated surprise package Costa Rica with a rather unusual move by manager Louis van Gaal as he replaced his starting goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with Newcastle’s Tim Krul for the shoot-out. The risk paid off as Krul saved two penalty kicks but the Ajax keeper looks to be returning under the bars after all. Manchester United striker Robin van Persie seems to have overcome his injury problems as he played 120 minutes in the quarter-final and proved to be a reliable force up front for the rest of the tournament.
Video: Robben and Messi go head-to-head
KICK-OFF: Wednesday, 9pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
Netherlands 0 Argentina 0, World Cup, June 2006
Netherlands 1 (van Bronckhorst) Argentina 0, International Friendly, February 2003
Netherlands 1 (Davids) Argentina 1 (Batistuta), International Friendly, March 1999
The sides have faced each other eight times where the Netherlands have won the lion share of the exchange as they picked up four wins and only lost once in 1978. This will be the fifth time those two nations collide at the World Cup.
Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul saved as many penalties last week against Costa Rica as he has in the past 20 Premier League matches where he had to face a penalty taker.
Wesley Sneijder has played in 16 World Cup games, more than any other Dutch player.
Gonzalo Higuain has tied Lionel Messi’s World Cup goal record as he scored his 5th last week against Belgium. The Napoli striker has picked up nine appearances whereas the Barcelona striker has amassed 13 caps.
This is the first time in the history of the World Cup where both Brazil and Argentina have appeared at the semi-finals at the same time.
Messi has tied Diego Maradona’s international caps as they have both wore the Albiceleste shirt 91 times. The 27-year-old is just four World Cup goals away from surpassing the legend’s eight.
Netherlands to win: 23.10
Argentina to win: 29.20
Back in the 1998 World Cup quarter-finals the Netherlands and Argentina were tied 1-1 until the 90 minute when a fantastic cross by Frank de Boer found Dennis Bergkamp up front who put the ball down with an exceptional touch then brilliantly dribbled Roberto Ayala and ultimately sent the ball to the back of Carlos Roa’s net.
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