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Netherlands vs Argentina
Arena de São Paulo
Game 62: Netherlands-Argentina
It's the ninth meeting between the Oranje and the White and Blue. The Dutch have won four and drawn three; Argentina's only win was, of course, the 1978 World Cup final. Nigel de Jong is still out for the Netherlands, and Ron Vlaar is ailing a bit (as is substitute Leroy Fer). Argentina, on the other hand, will definitely be missing Ángel di Maria, which is a serious blow to their midfield. Enzo Pérez will most likely fill in, but he's more of a defensive player than di Maria. Will that impact the Argentinian attack, which is already leaning heavily on Lionel Messi? The entire key to this game, for both teams, is going to be whether the defenses can contain the opponent. That's going to be a tough test for both. For the Dutch, it's mostly about containing Messi himself, but that's not an enviable task. For Argentina, it's more complex. Arjen Robben is certainly the fulcrum of Holland's assault, but the Netherlands have other world-class weapons to bear. An undue focus on Robben could leave Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder free to wreak havoc.
Most seem to think Argentina will win a tight one; I'm going the other way here. Prior to yesterday, there was one especially glowing hour in this tournament, and it was when the Dutch absolutely eviscerated Spain. Argentina has done nothing like that, and while the Dutch haven't been filling the net in the knockout rounds, they've also been up against teams more concerned with preventing them from doing so that with scoring themselves. Argentina won't be parking the bus here, which will give the Oranje more space to attack. Without the box packed, I can't see Robben, van Persie, and Sneijder being flummoxed.
Be sure to check out Jack Sargeant's match preview, so you can see where he disagrees with me, and then join us this afternoon for the match. We're down to the wire, folks. This is the last game that really matters before we crown the world champion.