Three times World Cup Champions Argentina take on Netherlands in the second semi-final of the World Cup, in Sao Paulo. Argentina will be looking to enter the finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1990. The winner will face Germany, after they thrashed Brazil 7-1.

Angel Di Maria will miss the game after suffering a thigh injury against Belgium and will be a big loss for Argentina. Enzo Perez is likely to replace him in the starting XI. Reports suggest Sergio Aguero is fit, but its highly unlikely he’ll start the game. Marcos Rojo returns from suspension and will replace Basanta in the starting XI. Martín Demichelis is expected to retain his place in the starting XI ahead of Fernandez. Lionel Messi has been Fifa’s Man of the Match in four games till now in the tournament. Argentina will be expecting a big performance from him once again. Just before the game, Argentina boss Alejandro Sabella told the reporters Messi is crucial for Argentina and why he thinks his players have already won enough in the tournament.

“Robben is a great player. He is very important for Holland. Like Neymar is for Brazil and Messi for Argentina,” Sabella said. “Each of them is important for their teams but Messi is the best of them all.

“After 24 years Argentina is among the four best teams in the world,” Sabella said. “I think this group of players has already won. Let’s see if we can win even more.”

As for Netherlands, Jasper Cillesen is expected to retain his palce in the starting XI, after Tim Krul’s heroics in the last game against Costa Rica. Nigel De Jong returned to light training, but he is expected to be on bench. Sneijder and Wijnaldum are expected to start in the middle of the park. Van Gaal might start with Depay once again. Robin Van Persie is fit despite missing the training due to stomach problems. Van Gaal revealed in his press conference that Van Persie is a doubt and his players will be in good shape for the match.

“I will decide (on Wednesday). Van Persie is our captain so he is very important to us. In principle my captain always plays, but he has to be fit.

“If his reaction is good and he can play, then the miracle can come true,” Van Gaal said. But even if De Jong makes a shock return to the XI for the Argentina match, it will mean nothing if Van Persie is ruled out.

“In general I give the players two days to recover, so if you have one day less it’s an issue, a problem,” Van Gaal said. “But a top athlete can perform so my players will be in shape.”

Holland (Possible, 5-3-2): Cillesen; Kuyt, De Vrij, Vlaar, Indi, Depay; Wijnaldum, Sneijder, Blind; Robben, Van Persie.

Argentina (Possible, 4-2-3-1): Romero; Zabaleta, Martín Demichelis , Garay, Rojo; E Perez, Mascherano; Palacio, Messi, Lavezzi; Higuaín.

Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey).

Opta stats:

  • Argentina have reached their first World Cup semi-final since 1990, when they went on to finish runners-up to West Germany.
  • La Albiceleste have progressed from all three of their World Cup semi-finals.
  • These teams have met four times in the World Cup, with Holland winning twice and Argentina once, with one draw.
  • Argentina’s victory, in the 1978 final, is their only win against Holland in eight meetings overall (L4 D3).
  • Argentina have lost just one of their last 16 World Cup games (W12 D3, not including penalty shoot-outs).
  • Holland have lost two of their 12 World Cup games against South American teams, not including penalty shoot-outs (1978 final v Argentina and 1994 quarter-final v Brazil).
  • 10 of Holland’s 12 goals in this tournament have come after half-time.
  • Holland’s last four goals in this tournament have come after the 75th minute.
  • Holland made 692 passes against Costa Rica, the most they’ve recorded in a single World Cup match (1966-2014).
  • Lionel Messi (29), Arjen Robben and Angel Di María (both 25) are the players with most completed dribbles in this tournament.
  • Messi has also created the most goalscoring chances in this World Cup: 19.
  • Against Costa Rica Wesley Sneijder recorded the 10th instance of a player hitting the woodwork twice in a World Cup match (1966 – 2014). He is the first Dutchman to do so.
  • Against Costa Rica, Holland recorded the 11th instance of a team hitting the woodwork three times in a World Cup match (1966 – 2014).
  • Argentina have won both their knockout stage games in this tournament 1-0; they have twice before won by this scoreline in the knock out stages of the World Cup (1986 and 1990).
  • Holland’s 0-0 draw against Costa Rica was their first goalless draw in World Cup knockout stages. This ended a run of 11 World Cup knockout stage matches for the Dutch without a clean sheet.
  • This is the first time Argentina have reached a World Cup semi-final in a tournament when great rivals Brazil have also done so.
  • Argentina are yet to trail for a single minute of the 2014 World Cup.
  • Argentina have scored with 11 per cent of their shots from outside the box, the best rate at the 2014 World Cup.
  • Argentina have made 86 unsuccessful crosses, more than any other side.
  • Holland are the only team to concede more than one penalty at the 2014 World Cup.

 

Prediction: Argentina 2-1 Netherlands.