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Stars missing in Argentina-Netherlands semifinal
by Paul Kennedy, July 10th, 2014 1:43AM

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TAGS:  argentina, netherlands, world cup 2014

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[BRAZIL 2014] "Soccer is illogical," said Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella between semifinals this week. And who would disagree? From the madness of Tuesday's Mineirazo to Wednesday's utter futility in Sao Paulo, we saw soccer's extremes. Brazil-Germany finished 7-1 for the Germans, but it could have easily been, oh, 12-5. On Wednesday, Argentina-Netherlands was never going to finish anything but like it did: 0-0 after 120 long and painful minutes.

Until he stepped up to convert his penalty kick and give Argentina the lead in the shootout after Ron Vlaar missed for the Dutch, Lionel Messi had no impact on the game.

The stats provided by the statistical service Opta showed Messi made 40 passes, completed 32 (almost half the average of 61.5 completed by Michael Bradley in his four games for the USA). Messi created two chances -- for Marcos Rojo that he mis-hit badly at the end of the first half and for the open Maxi Rodriguez in the 116th minute that was saved easily -- but he never once penetrated the penalty area.

The Dutch marking on Messi was tight -- midfielders Nigel de Jong (until he went off) and Wesley Sneijder were always no more than a few yards away -- and occasionally rough -- Bruno Martins Indi got carded for decking Messi in the 44th minute -- but nothing like their infamous stance to systematically shut down Spain in the 2010 World Cup final. The few times Messi got up a little head of steam, Vlaar easily snuffed him out.

''We didn't see Messi,'' said Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal.

Not that we saw Messi's opposite number, Arjen Robben, either. In previous games, the left-footed Dutchman ran riot on the right wing, cutting to his left or moving to the end line and cutting to his left -- always cutting to his left -- but the Argentines planted three players in a two-line block on their left side and Robben never penetrated..

For a good part of the first half, Ezequiel Lavezzi found space on the wings but nothing so much as to worry the Dutch. The Oranje's attack? Nonexistent as Robin van Persie was again no factor and came off "exhausted," according to van Gaal, in overtime.

But Van Gaal, who gave new meaning at the World Cup to the phrase "tooting your own horn," was to his credit equally blunt in his assessment of his team's attack.

''We didn't create very much,'' he said.

In contrast to Tuesday's game, which set a record for goals in a semifinal with eight, Wednesday's game set a record of another sort.

Argentina-Netherlands produced the first scoreless draw in 34 semifinals. (No semifinals were played in 1950, 1974 and 1978. Germany-Italy in 2006 ended 0-0 after 90 minutes but the Italians won 2-0 in overtime.)

Far from the excitement of the group stage -- the Netherlands' 5-1 win over Spain or its 3-2 win over Australia seemed like ages ago -- Wednesday's match in Sao Paulo -- which ended with a 4-2 shootout win for Argentina -- was the logical conclusion to a knockout stage marked by increasingly conservative play.

Tuesday's Brazil-Germany match aside, the 13 matches in the knockout stage produced four 2-1 games -- two of them scoreless after regulation -- two 2-0 games, three 1-0 games, two 1-1 games and two 0-0 games.

If you exclude the Brazil-Germany match, the five matches in the quarterfinals and semifinals produced a grand total of five goals, the sign of a tournament running out of steam.

And not exactly the thrills we had come to expect from Brazil 2014.


9 comments
  1. Vendetta diPirlo
    commented on: July 10, 2014 at 2:03 a.m.
    Why didn't the Dutch overlap on the left wing? Kuyt had the ball past the circle many times but always passed back because nobody made a run towards the left corner flag. There is no way Robben or Messi (or Jesus) was going to get past the block of defenders in the middle.

  1. ROBERT BOND
    commented on: July 10, 2014 at 8:58 a.m.
    Is it true Argentina the oldest side?

  1. Barry Ulrich
    commented on: July 10, 2014 at 9:35 a.m.
    By the time teams reach the Round of 16, players are becoming exhausted, especially those whose teams have had to go into OT. Why does the tournament adhere to 3 substitutes? Why not allow 5 or even up to 7 during this stage of the WC? The old argument that substitutes bring down the level of play no longer holds true. We've witnessed subs who have dramatically improved the game by their movement and scoring. And isn't this is what the spectators want and have paid to see?

  1. Santiago 1314
    commented on: July 10, 2014 at 10:36 a.m.
    Quote from Jurgen Klinsmann in article by Randy Harvey of the Houston Chronicle Sports..7/10/14 pgC1&3….”It makes them feel accountable, not just walk away with a bad performance and nothing happens,” he said. “If you have a bad performance, then people should approach you and tell you that, to make sure that next game is not bad anymore and you step it up.”… The Article is about the National Humiliation that Brazil feels and How (THE USA PLAYERS) don’t have that kind of pressure…***JURGEN*** FIRST, YOU Parked the Bus In-Front of the Goal(Didn’t BELIEVE USA Could Win)… THEN, YOU Re-Arranged the Chairs on the TITANIC(No Sub for Jozy)…and NOW, YOU are Throwing the Players OUT of the Bus, for the Dogs to Eat…<<< THROW YOURSELF OUT >>>…OH, but Knowing you, You will Take a Helicopter Ride Off the Top of the Bus, so you don’t have to face the Wolves…I was for Keeping You, Hoping you would Learn some Humility…But Asking for Fans to Accost the Players and Frighten them into Better Performance!?!?!?…WHAT AN ARROGANT, JERK, PRICK, You are !!!!...What a Hypocrite!!!…YOU Left Germany because YOU couldn’t take the Magnifying Glass that YOU were under and because YOU liked the anonymity that Athletes have in the USA… NOW YOU WANT TO HAVE THE FANS DO YOUR JOB !!!… <<<< Come on SUNIL… Enough is Enough…GET RID OF HIM!!!! >>>> THIS IS AMERICA!!! and WE BELIEVE WE CAN WIN and WE CAN DO IT OUR WAY… so PISS OFF back to Germany…Oh, They don’t want you their either…!!!

  1. Santiago 1314
    commented on: July 10, 2014 at 11:15 a.m.
    Santiago 1314 commented on: July 10, 2014 at 11:10 a.m. Van Gaal Blew it...He Psyched his own team out...Van Persie and De Jong were Never going to last 120 minutes,coming off Sickness and Pulled Grion...So Why did they Start???... That was 2 subs already used before the Kick-off...Then to compound the error, Van Gaal used his 3rd Sub at Halftime...That meant No Krul Keeper and No Van Persie for the Pks...That meant Vraal became First Shooter for Holland instead of Van Persie...Argentina Coach Saved Aguero for the 80th minute and OT/Pks...Was Krull so Bad that he Couldn't Start for Holland...He is Starting GK in the BPL(Newcaslte???)...The Curse of '74 continues...Whaaaa!!!.... Oh p.s. as I have been saying:; WEAKEST WORLD CUP EVER!!! Now do you ask see how Klinsmann Screwed Up...We could have Snuck into a WC final, if he hadn't have Messed Up by Leaving off a Replacement for Jozy...Thereby Condemning Dempsey to Purgatory as Lone Ranger, and Throwing Years of Preparation Out The Window....Double Whaaaa !!! ***And Now<<Later>> We find out that Van Gaal Knew/Trained the Argentina GK** WOW...You can't make this Sh!t Up!!!! Van Gaal got his Comeuppance...No Wonder Cruyff Hates Him...Gonna be Fun at ManU next year with Van Persie, Van Gaal and Rooney...Taking Bets for who is Out The Door FIRST...

  1. ROBERT BOND
    commented on: July 10, 2014 at 11:37 a.m.
    Should at least allow 1 extra for extra time, or just play till a golden goal if it's an exercise in machisma masochism. These guys have leagues to get ready for! My previous age Q very relavant if Argentines coming off 120'-1 day less rest & OLD!

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: July 10, 2014 at 1:43 p.m.
    This game was not going to be different than it was. Too much was at stake and defensive tactics on both squads prevailed. Space was limited and both Robben and Messi were marginalized. Messi was mostly in the middle and IMHO, it was not all the Dutch defense and its MF that deserves credit, but it is obvious that this Argentine squad is not on the same page with Messi, and none of them is an effective play-maker. Messi is two steps ahead of their soccer IQ. Lavezzi is too heavy footed and slow, while Perez, Aguerro and Palacio showed too many nerves. As for Van Gaal, he lost his nerve in not attacking more in the second half. Robben's couple of chances were hugely saved by Mescharano who for me was the player of the game. Germany won't make the same mistake.

  1. StrikerBob Norman
    commented on: July 10, 2014 at 2:52 p.m.
    I was in Klinsmann's camp after our run in qualifying and then had my doubts when the cuts were made. The youth movement had its moments, but for the reason Santiago 1314 so cogently states, especially the complete change in tactics caused by Jozy's injury, and his "Can't win" attitude, Tab Ramos is looking like the man.

  1. Santiago 1314
    commented on: July 10, 2014 at 10:56 p.m.
    Thanks Bob, I like Tab, even know him...But it would not be Fair to him, to Throw him into the Fire, without any "REAL" Game Coaching Experience...Definitely Down the Road... I Prefer Peter Vermes or Dominic Kinner...Both are Hands-On...Teams try to play with Creativity(with Limited MLS Talent)...Their Teams Play USA "Style" "Balls to the Wall"...High Pressure...Quick Movement of the Ball...


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