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Sabella: 'Messi is the best of them all'
by Paul Kennedy, July 8th, 2014 11:55PM

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TAGS:  argentina, netherlands, world cup 2014

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[PREVIEW: Argentina-Netherlands] Like most coaches, Louis van Gaal and Alejandro Sabella like to talk in terms of teams, not individuals. Van Gaal, the Netherlands coach, says he has been preparing his players to face Argentina, not Lionel Messi alone. But when it comes down to Dutch star Arjen Robben or Messi, Sabella, the Argentina coach, isn't afraid to say who he thinks is better.

''Robben is a great player," the Argentine coach said. "He is very important for the Netherlands. Like Neymar is for Brazil and Messi for Argentina. Each of them is important for their teams but Messi is the best of them all.''

Robben and Messi come into the semifinals scoreless in the knockout stage, but both were highly influential in the passage of the Netherlands and Argentina into the final four.

Robben drew the penalty kick that won the game against Mexico in stoppage time. He so frustrated Costa Rica that he drew yellow cards from four different Tico players in the second half of the quarterfinal match won by the Dutch in a shootout.

Messi's pass set up Angel Di Maria's late winner against Switzerland in the round of 16, and he made a nifty run through midfield on the play that led to Gonzalo Higuain's goal that gave Argentina a 1-0 win over Belgium in the quarterfinals.

Storylines ...

ARGENTINA. Argentina won't have Di Maria after a thigh injury forced him out of the Belgium game in the 33rd minute. Enzo Perez, who came on for the Real Madrid star, is likely to start.

The other change in the Argentine lineup will likely be at left back, where Marcos Rojo, who was suspended for the Belgium game, should return. Jose Basanta could stay in the lineup, though, if Sabella goes with five in the back.

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, who was injured in the third group match against Nigeria, will likely be available off the bench after missing the last two matches.

NETHERLANDS. The Dutch head into Wednesday's match with concerns about the fitness of their captain, Robin van Persie, who has been suffering from an intestinal disorder.

Coach Louis van Gaal says he'll wait as long as possible before making a decision about whether to start van Persie or go with Klaas Jan Huntelaar. “Van Persie is a very important player to us," he said. “He is our captain, so in that capacity alone he is very important, and in principle my captains always play.”

Two other starters from the quarterfinal match against Costa Rica are doubtful: defender Ron Vlaar (knee) and midfielder Nigel de Jong (thigh).

History ...

Argentina and the Netherlands are both making their fifth appearances in the semifinals, where both teams advanced three times. Argentina has gone on to win two of its three finals -- in 1978 and 1986 -- while the Dutch are still looking for their first World Cup title.

The first Argentine championship came in 1978 when the Albiceleste beat the Dutch, 3-1, in the final in overtime in Buenos Aires. Its the only Argentine victory in four meetings between the teams at the World Cup.

In 1974, Clockwork Orange was at its finest in the Netherlands' 4-0 over Argentina. In 1998, the Netherlands won, 2-1, on Dennis Bergkamp's memorable goal in the last minute of regulation.

(In 2006, Argentina and the Netherlands played to a 0-0 tie in the final game of the group stage with both teams already through to the knockout stage.)

Rosters ...

ARGENTINA
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Monaco/FRA), Mariano Andujar (Catania/ITA), Agustin Orion (Boca Juniors).
Defenders: Ezequiel Garay (Benfica/POR), Federico Fernandez (Napoli/ITA), Pablo Zabaleta (Man. City/ENG), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon/POR), Jose-Maria Basanta (Monterrey/MEX), Hugo Campagnaro (Inter Milan/ITA), Martin Demichelis (Man. City/ENG).
Midfielders: Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors), Lucas Biglia (Lazio/ITA), Javier Mascherano (Barcelona/SPA), Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid/SPA), Maxi Rodriguez (Newell's Old Boys), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan/ITA), Augusto Fernandez (Celta/SPA), Enzo Perez (Benfica/POR).
Forwards: Sergio Aguero (Man. City/ENG), Lionel Messi (Barcelona/SPA), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli/ITA), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris SG/FRA), Rodrigo Palacio (Inter Milan/ITA).

NETHERLANDS
Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen (Ajax), Tim Krul (Newcastle/ENG), Michel Vorm (Swansea/WAL)
Defenders: Daley Blind (Ajax), Daryl Janmaat (Feyenoord), Terence Kongolo (Feyenoord), Bruno Martins Indi (Feyenoord), Joel Veltman (Ajax), Paul Verhaegh (Augsburg/GER), Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa/ENG), Stefan de Vrij (Feyenoord)
Midfielders: Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord), Leroy Fer (Norwich/ENG), Jonathan De Guzman (Swansea/WAL), Nigel de Jong (AC Milan/ITA), Wesley Sneijder (Galatasaray/TUR), Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV)
Forwards: Memphis Depay (PSV), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke 04/GER), Dirk Kuijt (Fenerbahce/TUR), Jeremain Lens (Dynamo Kiev/UKR), Robin van Persie (Man. United/ENG), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich/GER).


1 comment
  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: July 9, 2014 at 7:55 a.m.
    Sabella is putting undo pressure on Messi. If he would have taken Tevez to Brazil, he wouldn't have to resort to sound bites. It takes 11 to win, not Sabella's one.As for defender Rojo back in the line-up; very inconsistent and too many unforced giveaways so far.

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