Netherlands vs Argentina World Cup 2014: A statistical preview to the semi-final

WhoScored.com sifts through the stats to analyse where the game could be won and lost

This match will no doubt be billed as Messi vs Robben, and for good reason based on their performances this summer. The two are the top-rated players of the tournament so far according to WhoScored.com. With Messi (8.87) just edging a tight battle so far (Robben 8.80), it's all to play for.

LIVE: Netherlands vs Argentina latest

Louis van Gaal's side began their World Cup campaign in spectacular and somewhat unexpected fashion. Many tipped the Oranje to be the tournament’s underperformers, failing to progress through a daunting group. Having done so in impressive fashion, earning 9 points from 9, they have found things far more difficult during the knockout stages; a comeback victory against Mexico deep into injury time, before penalties were required to see of Costa Rica. It may seem unlikely but they've struggled in attack since injury to Nigel de Jong.

With the shield removed from in front of an experimental back three, Netherlands have looked more cautious of late, rather than somewhat care free in the group stages, from an offensive standpoint at least. They will be even more wary given the fact that Lionel Messi will be lurking between the lines of defence and midfield on Wednesday, and it would be no surprise to see Daley Blind deployed in midfield to try and combat that threat. Van Gaal’s side played on the counter in Group B, with an average of just 39.3% possession in their first three matches, and their tailor-made system reaped the rewards. Handed the initiative to control possession in their last two matches, however, they've struggled.

 

Read more: Di Maria absence forces Argentina to think again
Argentinians begin to feel fate is on their side
Aguero passed fit for semi-final

A match against possession dominant Argentina could yet play in the Europeans’ favour then. The South Americans have also had problems making their possession count during the tournament, with an average 61.3% share of the ball second only to first-hurdle fallers Spain. Alejandro Sabella's side are still yet to win a game by more than a solitary goal to date, though there were signs of improvement in a relatively comfortable victory against an oft-fancied Belgium side.

Marc Wilmots' men had just one shot on target in a game of very few chances. In truth Argentina were perfectly happy for it to be that way. They weren't reliant on Messi - four players earned a higher rating than the forward (7.33), who had earned WhoScored.com's man of the match award in each of the 4 games previous. The fact that they were in control of matters without key man Angel Di Maria was even more impressive, though the Real Madrid winger's absence will undoubtedly be a boost to the Oranje.

Eventually Netherlands' inexperience in central midfield may well prove telling with Messi on the prowl and still in with a chance of collecting the Golden Boot. The Dutch have been well-drilled to now though, and should Argentina again struggle to make their dominance pay, this could yet be another match that goes the distance, extra-time and all.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings

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