Argentina: two-time winners (1978, 1986), 28 years without taking the title home. Netherlands: runners-up in 1974, 1978 and 2010. Only one of them will be able to play Germany for the trophy on 13 July. The second semi-final kicks off this Wednesday (09.07) at 05:00pm, at the Corinthians Arena in São Paulo.
The Dutch had a tiring match against Costa Rica, winning on the penalties. In addition to recovering physically, the European team needs answers before kick-off. Holding midfielder De Jong, who is recovering from an injury trained yesterday, but Louis Van Gaal does not know if he will be able to play him. Defender Vlaar is also doubtful with a possible knee injury.
Robben versus Messi
For the Dutch manager, there is no favourite for the match on Wednesday. Despite having to face Messi, he said that the game plan is based on the opponents as a whole and not on specific players. However, Van Gaal acknowledged the talent of the Barcelona forward. “He has scored many goals, which shows how valuable he is. He comes through in difficult moments. He had not played that well for the national squad, but is having a good World Cup. We want to stop that”, he said.
The Dutch also have a lot of talent up front, one of the best players in the World Cup in fact. Robben has scored three goals and led the team on the pitch. “He can make a difference, we need to be careful with him. We have to play as compact as possible and ensure that he's not allowed to gain speed, because when he does, it's very difficult to get the ball from him", said Argentina’s manager Alejandro Sabella, referring to Robben.
Sabella believes Argentina has been improving defensively and knows that it is essential to deal with Holland's very efficient attack. “Football is balance between attack and defence. The first striker is the defender and the first defender is the striker. We’ll face a very powerful team from an attacking point of view and we’ll have to really pay attention to that during the match”, he added.
Changes to the team
With an injury to his right thigh, Di María will not play and will be replaced by Enzo Pérez, player who came on for him against Belgium. Another option Sabella has on the bench is Sergio Aguero, who has recovered from an injury in his left thigh. Left back Marcos Rojo will come back to the team after suspension for picking up two yellow cards.
For Sabella, making it to the last four after 24 years is a big achievement and he considers this group to be winners already. However, according to him, as they have made it this far, they will do everything in their power to take the extra step, particularly on such an important day for Argentina, 9 July.
“It's our independence day. What can we say to Argentinians? We’re going to work seriously, with our heads down, giving 100% for our country. And may the best team win. I cannot do any less than that”, he said.
Argentina and the Netherlands faced each other in the 1978 World Cup final, won 3-1 by the South American team in extra-time. The tournament was held in Argentina. The two countries have met another three times in World Cups. The Dutch carousel thrashed Argentina 4-0 in the second round of the 1974 World Cup. More recently, the Europeans sent the South Americans homes in the quarter-finals of the 1998 World Cup beating them 2-1. They also drew 0-0 in the group stage in 2006.
Fans should use public transport to go to the stadium. Gates will be opened at 02:00pm. Those with tickets for the west sector of the Corinthians Arena should get off at the Artur Alvim station, on Line 3 (red) of the metro system and walk the rest of the way. Fans with tickets for the east sector should get off at the Corintians-Itaquera station - Line 11 (coral) – of São Paulo’s metropolitan train system (CPTM). They may take the train at the Luz station in the city centre: it takes 19 minutes to get to the Corinthians-Itaquera station, it is a non-stop service. The fare costs R$ 3.00 and users are advised to buy a return ticket in advance.
People with special needs should find their way to the Corinthians-Itaquera station. From there, vans will take them to the stadium free of charge. There will be no car parks and road blocks will be put up in several roads around the stadium between 11:00am and 07:00pm. As the 9 July is a state bank holiday, there will be no restrictions on private cars.
In addition to showing the semi-final, the main attraction at the FIFA Fan Fest at Vale do Anhangabaú this Wednesday will be singer Claudia Leitte, whose performance will start after the match. Gates will be opened at 11:00am, with DJs and bands, as well as a performance by stand-up comedian Rafael Marinho.
The match will be the last game held at the Corinthians Arena at the 2014 World Cup. The stadium was the stage of the opening match of the tournament on 12 June, when Brazil beat Croatia 3-1. It also hosted another three group stage games: Uruguay 2 – 1 England (19.06), Holland 2 - 0 Chile (23.06), South Korea 0 - 1 Belgium (26.06). Argentina's 1-0 victory over Switzerland in the round of 16 was also held at the São Paulo stadium on 1 July.