[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
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.
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).
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.)
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Monaco/FRA), Mariano Andujar (Catania/ITA), Agustin Orion (Boca Juniors).
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).
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).