The first of two big name semi finals was turned into an absolute procession with Germany tearing through a Brazil side that parted like the red sea and will trigger an inquest the likes of which we’ve never seen before in Brazilian football – and arguably one that has been coming according to notable football scholars – but tonight’s second semi final between Holland and Argentina is set to be a much tighter affair.
The Argentines are the third market leader pre tournament to have made it to the semis – indeed they were marginal favourites with some before yesterday’s semi final – but despite a royal footballing pedigree, Holland come here as the World Cup springer – having been 33-1 pre tournament before thumping Spain 5-0, after which they’ve been the best backed team of the whole thing in the tournament, support entirely justified by their group performances.
Argentina have yet to come close to justifying pre tournament prices of 7/2 but barring a hard fought extra time win against Switzerland, have been improving in their all round play from the beginning of the tournament. Against Belgium Gonzalo Higuain’s opener was fortunate in only in terms of the bounce but Argentina consistently made opportunities, were as composed as they have been all tournament, defended extremely well in their own half – and especially in their box – and they should have had at least one more goal from either Messi or Higuain.
Beating Holland is likely to be more difficult but one could possibly see hope for Sabella’s men – or main man given that Messi is this team’s sole inspiration – based on the Dutch’s knockout games. Against Mexico sharp tactical changes from Van Gaal – including the withdrawal of Robin Van Persie – engineered a late turnaround that was well deserved despite the highly contested late penalty that Klaas Jan-Huntellar put away. Against Costa Rica they were more superior for far longer periods but poor finishing – albeit with superb defending and a great performance for Keylor Navas – forced them into extra time and forced them to go all the way.
In Robben they have arguably the feature man of the tournament and is pace is sure to be a meance to Marcos Rojo, the biggest labiality of the Albiceste defence, while Robin Van Persie does get a start after being a doubt. It’s also of major significance that Wesley Sneijder has improved as the tournament has grown, being a disappointment in the group stage but a dead ball threat against Mexico and vastly improved against Costa Rica when he went close to scoring on two occasions with fine free kicks. His role will be vital tonight with Argentina sure to fight for possession more than Costa Rica did and Javier Mascherano likely to be a constant harassment of him in midfield.
With Di Maria out, Argentina have an uncomfortable tactical dilemma to deal with as the return to a 5-3-2 likely to be counterproductive but Di Maria leaving a huge void; however Lavezzi’s performances have been amongst the best in the side and his hard work out wide can possibly but pressure on a Dutch defence that’s yet to be seriously opened by any other side but Australia although they will fancy their chances on the counter. With Argentina heavily backed beforehand the temptation is to side with the Dutch but 5/4 to qualify offers little leeway; Consider a high card count with Arjen Robben and Lionel Messi running at defenders treating upon themselves – a red card is 3/1 in general and over 30 bookings points is a decent evens shot, but I’ll leave this alone.
No bet, but strongly consider going high on bookings points and backing a red card