Wednesday July 9, 2014 (4 p.m. EST)
Quick note on Brazil – Germany
That was an unprecedented event. To put it in perspective, let’s take a look at one of Germany’s qualifying games: In September of 2012, Germany beat the Faroe Islands in qualifiers. The game was a “blowout” and ended 3-0. The Germans played a similar starting 11 as they did against Brazil and were not able to score until the 54th minute. Faroe Islands have never sniffed at qualifications of a World Cup and have a population less than 50,000. There are more people in Havertown (PA) than in the Faroe Islands, and they were able to field a team that did not let in 5 goals in 15 minutes of soccer. Think about that.
The emotional toll of losing Neymar and Thiago Silva pressed down so hard on the Brazilians after that first goal that it was like they were not even there. I feel really bad for Brazil and their fans. It will be interesting to see how they respond on the world stage next time around.
I reviewed the Netherlands team at the very start of the tournament, so let’s take a quick look at Argentina:
Argentina – La Albiceleste (The White and Sky Blue)
Coach – Alejandro Sabella. Sabella has coached the team since 2011 and understands the pressure that is on this club. His first move as coach was to name Messi the captain and focus on an attack-minded style of play.
Tournament history – 2-time winners in 1986 and 1978. Also reached finals in 1990 and 1930.
FIFA Ranking – #5
Messi is the heart and soul of this team even though it has several top-class players in attacking roles. His ability to score and create chances for the team has been the key to their success so far. They are notoriously weak in the back with some aging stars, but so far, they have been able to cover up those weaknesses with strong midfield and attacking play. Speed and precision all throughout the top make this World Cup a real good opportunity to win very close to home.
The Netherlands have been going at it like gangbusters, relentless in attack and playing tough in defense, averaging two goals per game and not allowing more than one goal in. Their last game against Costa Rica went to kicks, but the stats tell the story. Costa Rica’s first shot on goal came about halfway through the first extra time period. What I am trying to say is that Holland is a powerful force and they will test the Argentine defense. Expect Arjen Robben to continually run at the defenders and put them in awkward coverage formations. Wesley Sneijder will also be active as he will be working directly against Messi to control the middle.
For Argentina, it is going to come down to the man. His ability to hold the ball through the midfield and create for his attacking partners will determine the outcome of the game. Over the five games of the tournament, he was given “Man of the Match” and in the last game, his run through the middle created the opportunity for the score. He has proven so far that he can lift the team on his shoulders and create a win, but will the defense hold long enough for him to do so? As far as the other players, it is a big loss for Argentina to be without Angel DiMaria. They will be able to use Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, as he has been declared fit for the game. The attacking trio of Lavezzi, Aguero, and Higuain with Messi linking up behind is a very strong combination and they will surely test the Dutch defense.
This game will feature lots of flowing, running soccer. Expect there to be chances at both ends with the Netherlands striking first and early. They looked so pumped up from the last win that I expect it to carry over into this match. Argentina will score but I do not see how they can hold off the red-hot Dutch.