Can Lionel Messi take Argentina back to the World Cup final for the first time since 1990? Or can Oranje make it back-to-back final appearances for the Dutch?
Those questions will be answered when Argentina square off against Netherlands with a shot in the final against the winner of Brazil-Germany on the line.
While both sides have been in excellent form to this point in the tournament, Argentina didn't escape it's quarter-final match without some bad news. According to Goal UK, the midfielder is doubtful for the rest of the World Cup with a thigh injury:
Reports emerging this evening that Angel Di Maria will miss the rest of the World Cup #ARG...— Goal UK (@GoalUK) July 5, 2014
While Messi has taken most of the spotlight for Argentina, Paul Carr of ESPN notes just how much Di Maria has meant to his side in the tournament:
Ángel di María goes off w/ an injury. He leads Argentina w/ 24 shots & 187 attacking-third touches at this WC.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) July 5, 2014
Despite the bad news, Argentina are still viewed as a likely candidate to go through. Here's a look at the opening lines for the match, via Odds Shark:
|Date||Time (ET)||TV||Argentina Win Odds||Netherlands Win Odds||Draw Odds|
|July 9||4 p.m.||ESPN||7-5||2-1||21-10|
Match Preview and Prediction
The loss of Di Maria forces Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella to reshuffle his attack a bit. Without the side's primary facilitator working his magic in the attacking third, they will need to rely on Messi even more.
Fortunately, Gonzalo Higuain might be re-emerging as a goalscoring threat at just the right time. The forward found the net against Belgium in the semi-finals for his first goal in nearly a year, per WhoScored.com:
Gonzalo Higuaín: Has scored his first goal for Argentina since August 2013 (vs Italy) #arg— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 5, 2014
The good news for Argentina is that they have found ways to advance without much offense thus far. They have scored one goal in three of their five victories in this World Cup.
Netherlands—on the other hand—don't have to worry about restructuring their attack. The duo of Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben have been nearly unstoppable thus far. Robben was especially sensational against Costa Rica in the quarter-final, via Squawka Football:
For all the firepower both sides have on the attack, the true story of this match could come down to possession. According to WhoScored.com, Netherlands were able to completely dominate the ball against Costa Rica, holding possession 67 percent of the time.
Argentina, meanwhile, had their attack held at bay by a Belgium team who had some success with playing keep away. They maintained possession just 46 percent of the time.
If Netherlands is able to once again dominate possession, they will go a long way toward silencing Messi. Without Di Maria in the mix to create shots for everyone around him, Argentina is unlikely to duplicate its success against a side with as much star power as them.
Prediction: Netherlands 2, Argentina 1