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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The 2014 World Cup Semifinal #2 Kickaround, Halftime and Runthrough For 7/9/14: Romero Celebrates Argentine Independence Day By Sending Them Into The Final

FT (aet): Argentina 0-0 Netherlands (Argentina win 4-2 on penalties) 

Photo from Getty Images

The reaction from the two sides towards Maxi Rodriguez's clinching penalty. 

It was that close of a match, that type of a tactical encounter that may not ever be in the highlight of reel like yesterday's semifinal, but was enthralling from a pure cagey perspective. 

Alejandro Sabella has just nicked Louis van Gaal in the "outfoxed department," as it came down to a simple overplay on penalties. 

Ron Vlaar, basting in the glow of a career afternoon, was wrongly chosen as the first penalty taker. It prove to be the first blink in a match where both sides were in an intense two hour starring contest. 

This is how a World Cup semifinal is suppose to look, not the debacle that was "The Beatdown in Belo." Chances are suppose to be few and far in between. Outstanding defending is suppose to be a constant, not an aberration. And managing the formation adjustments and the substitutions require the utmost shrewd thought. 

For all the praise he had received from the start of the tournament in the Salvador Slaughter of Spain to throughout the group stages, van Gaal had finally made his most glaring mistake. It was a rare lack of sagacity that he was apoplectic about towards the media, setting the stage for how he will deal with the persistent English press at Manchester United. 

But it was the deciding moment in a day of tremendous individual defensive plays led by Vlaar and Javier Mascherano. 

And it also was a memorable day for Sergio Romero, a man who was relegated to the bench at Monaco this season and thought to be the weakness of this Argentine side. Instead, Romero has become an integral part of a squad who could win a third world championship for their nation.  

And to do it on Argentine Independence Day is more incredible. 

Halftime: Netherlands 0, Argentina 0 



After the utter collapse of the Brazilian defense yesterday, a real World Cup semifinal first half has taken place today. 

It was a cagey opening 45 minutes that featured really good play by the centerbacks, particularly Louis Van Gaal's men. Ron Vlaar is looking like the opposite of the defender he was this past season in Aston Villa, while Stefan De Vrij has improved this tournament. De Vrij is still susceptible to mistakes however, with his passing and judgement. But so far has not had to pay for them. 

There has been moments when Dirk Kuyt and especially Bruno Martins Indi have shown their deficiencies in the full back spot, getting bypassed a few times by Enzo Perez and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Fortunately for the Dutch and unfortunately for Argentina, this is where Angel Di Maria has been sorely missed, as you got to believe the Real Madrid man would have benefit from such moments. Perez has been solid, but his play still hasn't produce the moment to really bring him the benefits of a controlled Argentine first half. 

With injury concerns for Mascherano and Sneijder to start this second half, Gago, Depay, and De Guzman will have to be on watch. And Van Gaal has to get more out of Wijnaldum. He just has to. 


Pre-game Version


Robben, Messi, Higuain, and an ill Van Persie get all the publication and attention for this game today. But the two key players of this game will be unsung midfielders Lucas Biglia and Giorgio Wijnaldum. 

Wijnaldum normally plays as a #10 for PSV, but has to show some of that offensive threat today to help Wesley Sneijder. Although his sacrifice the last few matches to take a deeper defensive role has been commendable, the 23-year-old has to become a true two way man today and make Javier Mascherano and the fullbacks pay for any obsessive focus on Robben. He will be given that chance with Nigel De Jong seemingly past fit now, and has to take advantage of the space given to him. 

Meanwhile, Biglia will look to continue how he provided much needed bite alongside Mascherano against Belgium for Alejandro Sabella. Biglia will look to provide that final passing and aggressive play in the midfield, allowing Mascherano to focus on containing Robben at all times. 
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