It's easy to get emotional over the 2014 World Cup. National and personal pride is at stake, and the wide expanses of grass lay the agony and ecstasy of players bare for all the world to see.
The Netherlands will take on Argentina in a match that will define the legacies of some of the key players on the pitch. Lionel Messi could perhaps rival Diego Maradona as Argentina's biggest soccer hero with cup glory, while Arjen Robben can erase the pain of his missed chances in the 2014 World Cup with two more wins of his own.
Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano aptly captured the romantic nature of soccer along with the harsh expectations in his pre-match comments.
"We have a unique and wonderful opportunity, and we will live with the dream of being able to reach the final," he said, via Goal.com's Vaishali Bhardwaj. "These instances are played with heart and soul, but you won’t reach [the final] if you're not smart enough on tactical issues."
Here is the roundup of all the necessary viewing information so not a dribble is missed in this spectacular World Cup clash.
Netherlands vs. Argentina Viewing Info
Location: Arena Corinthians, Sao Paolo, Brazil
Date: July 9
Time: 4 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Players to Watch
As if you were going to concentrate on anyone else during the match. Messi is, once again, the key to Argentina defeating the Netherlands. With so much class on the opposite side of the ball, the little maestro will have to boost his team to the World Cup final.
He's registered four goals and an assist, accounting for half of his team's 10 goals in one way or another. Messi has also been the linchpin of Argentina's possession-based style, making the simple passes deep in the midfield before making probing runs in the final third. Messi has accounted for 19 key passes and lashed 18 total shots on goal. Simply put, Messi is always a threat.
But the stats don't tell the whole story. This awe-inspiring through ball counts as just one pass for Messi:
If there is any player capable of producing a moment of breath-catching glory from out of nowhere, it is the Barcelona favorite.
The notion that he doesn't play well for his country has been thoroughly dispelled in this tournament. He can put any and all arguments against his Argentina legacy to rest with a victory over the Netherlands and a win in the World Cup final.
Everyone knows the drill with Arjen Robben, and yet that doesn't seem to help any defender in the world contain this tormenting Dutch master.
His close control allows him to seemingly move just as fast with the ball as without. There is a direct, violent energy to his game and his famous cut onto his left foot from a right-sided position. Everyone in the world knows he is going to make that move, the impossible part is figuring out when.
The Bayern Munich star was magnificent against Costa Rica, whipping in five shots and racking up eight dribbles, four key passes and drawing eight fouls out of Los Ticos. His fouls often set up Wesley Sneijder for his dangerous free kicks. Everyone benefits from Robben's solo stylings.
The Mirror's David McDonnell wouldn't mind having Robben on his side in a close game:
He often commands the attention of multiple defenders, which can free up space for Robin van Persie in the box or allow Sneijder to settle in between the midfield and back line.
Indeed, he causes plenty of frustration for opponents and fans alike. He either draws multiple fouls (21 in the entire Cup) or spends a lot of time flopping, depending on how much orange is in your wardrobe.
If a goal is to come for the Netherlands, you can nearly be assured Robben will have something to do with it.
Nigel de Jong, the Netherlands' defensive midfield enforcer, is training with a groin tear before the Argentina match, per the AFP (h/t FIFA.com). This creates extra work for center-back Ron Vlaar (dealing with knee issues, per the AFP), who's had a magnificent tournament but will face his toughest test yet against Messi and possibly without his midfield shield.
The last thing the Dutch want to do is leak a goal on a set piece and then have to worry about Argentina's possession-oriented style for the rest of the match.
Vlaar is key to commanding the players at the back. He's 29 years old and plays for Aston Villa in the English Premier League. The rest of the defense—other than little-used Paul Verhaegh—plies their trade in the Dutch Eredivisie, a couple of rungs down in competition from the EPL.
Vlaar's experience and leadership at the back will be crucial in defending Messi, Sergio Aguero and company.
All stats courtesy of WhoScored.com unless otherwise noted.
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