Picking a Combined Argentina-Netherlands 2014 World Cup XI
It is a tactical dilemma that most coaches in the world would die for. Who to pick out of Gonzalo Higuain or Robin Van Persie to lead the attack? Is Javier Mascherano or Wesley Sneijder the most appropriate midfield general? And how to accommodate the brilliance of Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben in the same team?
With Argentina's World Cup semi-final against the Netherlands just around the corner, fans can look forward to seeing some of the world's finest players in action, from both sides of the pitch. But how would a starting XI composed of the pick of each nation look on paper?
Taking into account solely World Cup form up to and including the quarter-final stage, here is the best combined line-up of the two teams who on Wednesday will be fighting for a place in the final.
There is a certain symmetry between the men entrusted by the Netherlands and Argentina to keep the net safe. Oranje No. 1 Jasper Cillessen has just two full seasons of professional football behind him, breaking into the Ajax first-team only in 2013/14 after two patient campaigns warming the bench.
Sergio Romero knows that feeling, having spent the vast majority of his time at Monaco waiting on the sidelines. But the two keepers have barely put a foot wrong in Brazil so far, surprising many of the doubters.
With little to choose between either Cillessen or Romero, the Argentine wins out narrowly thanks to his two consecutive clean sheets helping Argentina negotiate the knockout stages, coming up big when it really counted.
Both Argentina and Netherlands are geared for attack. A cursory glance at each side's team-sheet tells the observer that, while those at the back are no slouches, it is the likes of Robben, Messi and Van Persie who provide the key to victory.
Still, all the goals in the world are no use if the opponent sticks five past you each game. Argentina fans have been pleasantly surprised by their defensive efficiency, and a large part of that work has been done by the giant Ezequiel Garay in the middle. Outside him, Pablo Zabaleta has been as consistent and solid as ever.
Martin Demichelis' excellent 2014 World Cup debut is not quite enough to win the Manchester City man a place amongst this XI, as the ever-present Stefan de Vrij gets the nod for his strength in bouncing back from an early penalty conceded against Spain. The versatile Daley Blind, whose energy and passing ability has been second to none, completes the back line out on the left.
Putting the two teams together in the middle of the park, it soon becomes apparent that two of the adversaries for Wednesday's clash would complement each other perfectly if ever given the chance to play together. Javier Mascherano's fearsome tackling and incessant movement is teamed here with the creative skills of Wesley Sneijder to create a world-class duo in the middle of the pitch.
To allow three strikers, the same amount of midfielders will be allowed. The last spot in this position is fiercely fought-over, with plenty of great candidates from both teams.
Dirk Kuyt has impressed with heaps of sacrifice and commitment from a withdrawn role, while Lucas Biglia was a revelation coming into the fold against Belgium and shoring up the Albiceleste. Nigel de Jong was also massive for his side in the group stage.
But for extra attacking impetus, Angel Di Maria is the man who gets the nod to start out on the left. The Real Madrid player was improving with every game until picking up a knock against Belgium, although he is still hopeful of coming back should the Albiceleste make the final.
Both Argentina and the Netherlands boast an almost embarrassing array of riches up front. Picking just a handful, three in this case, is of course no easy task. But where better to start than with a trio of players who between them have smashed no less than 10 goals.
Lionel Messi, with four strikes and Netherlands pair Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben (three each) complete the combined side with a powerful attacking trident, that would surely be the envy of almost any international coach on the planet. However, there are plenty of other decent candidates for the job outside of this terrible trio.
Gonzalo Higuain proved with his goal against Belgium that he was turning the page on a poor start to the World Cup. Klass-Jan Huntelaar, meanwhile, provided a memorable cameo in the last 16 when his assist and goal saved the Netherlands from going out to Mexico.
The Combined Argentina-Netherlands XI
Zabaleta Garay De Vrij Blind
Sneijder Mascherano Di Maria
Robben Messi Van Persie
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