The Netherlands are destined to beat Argentina in their World Cup semi-final encounter, and this is why...
Strength in numbers
The Netherlands have used a variety of players (21 in all) in different positions during the finals and this always bodes well when it comes to the knock-out stages where injuries, suspensions and positional flexibility are important.
For instance, the Netherlands have used Georginho Wynaldum, Nigel de Jong and Bruno Martins Indi in the same defensive midfield role to good effect. The system set up by Louis van Gaal which is a 3-4-3 when attacking and 5-3-2 when more defensive minded has been highly lauded and the manager has been able to make tactical and positional changes during the matches that have turned games in his side’s favour.
In addition, all the players have generally performed to the required level and this makes the Netherlands very much a strong team rather than the Argentines whose collection of highly rated individuals have mainly performed below par (read Sergio Aguerro, Pablo Zabaletta, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Angel di Maria).
The in-fighting that often troubled the Dutch in previous tournaments in which they had more talented squads has been forgotten under strict disciplinarian and tactician Van Gaal. This is a team united as a group and driven to succeed by the disappointment of 2010 where they lost to Spain in extra time.
With a squad which performed well as a group, the Netherlands may well have the edge over the Albiceleste at the crunch.
Louis van Gaal
Apart from his much lauded gamble to bring in a substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul in the penalty shoot-out win over Costa Rica, LVG has made several tactical switches in all the group games as well as the knock-out stages that have ensured that Netherlands navigate past tricky and stubborn opponents.
Mexico were undone in part by the drinks break as well as by the introduction of Klaas Jan Huntelaar and the positional switching of Dirk Kuyt which turned the encounter on its head, although they had been in control of the game for just over an hour.
Earlier in the tournament, Spain were blasted for their defeat yet little credit has been given to them for having dominated most of the first half of a game which, in the end, made such a point simply redundant.
Yet in adjusting his side to press higher up and attack via the flanks, the Dutch found a chink in the Spanish armour that resulted in the worst ever beating by a World Cup holder in an opening match.
The Dutch mentor is also not averse to making bold substitutions as the substitution of Robin van Persie against Mexico and Jasper Cillessen in the shoot-out victory over Costa Rica show.
Any coach who is brave enough to make such changes in the heat of an intense battle like the World Cup will surely achieve great results. LVG must have known the kind of brickbats that would come his way in the event of failure but it’s the courage to do so that will give him the edge against the Lionel Messi-led Argentina.
Forget James Rodriguez, the Colombian wonder boy or Messi or even Germany’s Thomas Muller; if the truth be told then Arjen Robben has been the standout performer in this World Cup.
From his excellent display against the Spanish right up to the recent indefatiguable performance against a plucky Costa Rican outfit, the Bayern Munich man has led from the front, constantly driving on his teammates even when the chips were down.
The nature of his dribbling ability and running will always put him in the frame for controversy when he enters the penalty box but the enterprising winger has shrugged off the controversy and even the stats reveal he is the most effective player.
Compared to Messi’s four goals, Robben has scored three and made 26 solo runs in to the penalty area to Messi’s 27. The Argentine ace has 22 deliveries into the box to Robben’s 17 but two particular stats place him ahead of Messi: the fouls he has received and the percentage of attempts on target.
For while Messi has only shot 53 percent on target, Robben has managed a staggering 94 percent. In fouls suffered, Robben is in third place overall on 18 whilst Messi is relatively lowly placed at joint eigth with 11 fouls suffered.
Considering the Argentine’s low centre of gravity and close control when running at pace, teams have coped generally well with him without the need for hatchet treatment. Put in another way, he has not been as effective as he can be and the games against Iran and Belgium are a strong case in point, all of which seemingly points the way to a Dutch victory in the Arena de Sao Paulo on Wednesday evening.
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