World Cup: Netherlands out to avenge ’78 defeat to Argentina

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Updated: July 9, 2014
David Luiz (left) and suspended captain Thiago Silva after Brazil's unbelievable 7-1 loss to Germany last night

David Luiz (left) and suspended captain Thiago Silva after Brazil’s unbelievable 7-1 loss to Germany last night

Today’s semi-final

Netherlands v Argentina; Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Thursday, July 10, 6am

Of all the enduring images from last night’s World Cup semi-final in Belo Horizonte, the one that stayed with me was that of Brazilian captain David Luiz. As the enormity of the 7-1 defeat to Germany started to seep in, Luiz dropped to his knees in prayer. We can only imagine how the conversation went: “Dear Lord, let me please awaken from this nightmare in which my beloved nation appears to have been dragged into a football hell that will haunt me, my teammates and all Brazilians for decades to come. P.S. Thanks for my awesome hair”. In more than four decades of either playing or covering the world game, I can state without hesitation that it’s the most staggering result I can remember. So much for our selection on the ‘under’, which was dead and buried after 24 minutes!

 

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Netherlands v Argentina TO QUALIFY (1.5 units @ $1.72), correct score 0-1 (0.5 units @ $7.00) – it’s been amazing to watch the shockwaves of the Brazil-Germany match echo through the football world today. Suddenly, the pundits are suggesting that this contest will open up and there’ll be goals galore. In our hometown of Melbourne, Australia, one “expert” on our local sports radio station was confidently sprouting that there’ll four or five goals in Sao Paulo tonight. Hmmm … we’re not sure about that! What can’t be argued is that Argentina has reached the last four for the first time in 20 years. Additionally, for the first time since 1930, Argentina has reached a World Cup semi-final without being the host nation (1978) or having Diego Maradona in the squad (1986 and 1990).

A player who is much-maligned in his home nation has dragged them here. Lionel Messi has scored four goals in the tournament to date, but he’s also created more goal scoring opportunities (19) than any other player at Brazil 2014. There’s no Angel Di Maria for this game, so Messi’s importance is amplified. Marcos Rojo should return from suspension to replace Jose Basanta at left-back, but Martin Demichelis will surely keep his place alongside Ezequiel Garay in the centre of defence; Demichelis looked far better than Federico Fernandez, and crucially Garay also looked more at ease with the experience of the Manchester City man alongside him.

 

Argentina would not have reached the semi-finals without the contributions of Lionel Messi (pictured) – can the superstar striker drag them into the final?

Argentina would not have reached the semi-finals without the contributions of Lionel Messi (pictured) – can the superstar striker drag them into the final?

Dutch football historians have been in a froth at the prospect of redemption over the Albiceleste. Argentina’s only World Cup win over the Netherlands was the 3-1 extra-time victory in the Estadio Monumental in the final of the 1978 World Cup – a tournament that was tainted by the documented tampering of the military junta. It’s also just four years since the Netherlands defeated Uruguay at the same stage of the South Africa 2010. This time around, the stars – Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, and Robin Van Persie – are burning just as brightly and Louis van Gaal has amassed a defence that has conceded just once in the Oranje’s past three outings.

To this point in Brazil 2014, the favourites have prevailed a perfect 12-0. In the last 16 and quarter-finals, Argentina neutered European sides that had previously shown themselves to be indifferent attacking units. The Netherlands have those brighter stars, but they fit the same profile – devastating against Spain and a mediocre Australia; efficient against a Chile team that was chasing a win and a Mexico side doing the opposite; ineffective against Costa Rica. Without injured defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong, the relatively inexperienced Dutch defence will have to be on their guard. But in true Dutch fashion, the best form of defence might be attack.

The events of yesterday have no bearing on our decision here. Since semi-finals were introduced at the 1982 World Cup, the under 2.5 goals is 13-3 while 10 of the 12 knockout matches in this tournament have reached 90 minutes with two goals or fewer. Since the 2002 finals, five of the six semi-finals played have ended 1-0. These teams have scored just three normal-time goals in four knockout games so far, while conceding only a single goal. We also have a weather factor for this game after the Netherlands went an extra 30 minutes against Costa Rica in Salvador in their quarter-final while Argentina wrapped up their last eight match against Belgium in regulation.

 

Most recent results: 0-0-1, -2.0 units; overall record: 26-1-17, +25.13 units

Brazil v Germany -2.5 game total (1.5 units @ $1.57) LOSE (1-7)

Brazil v Germany -1.5 game total (0.5 units @ $2.75) LOSE (1-7)

• Selections are listed in three categories – 1) Suggested (likely bet but yet to be finalised); 2) Confirmed (locked in at the price listed); and 3) Leans (tips, but not recommended bets); all times quoted are Australian Eastern Time (AET); prices with thanks to Sportingbet (except where markets are not available), correct at time of publication. Results/comments on today’s games/races will follow in the next post.

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