After the Netherlands narrowly escaped with a penalty shootout win in their matchup against Costa Rica, they will look ahead to Argentina, where they will need to find a way to stop Lionel Messi if they want to advance to the World Cup final on Sunday.
Messi, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s most prolific players, won’t be easy to contain, but the Dutch have a slew of weapons at their disposal, most notably in superstar Arjen Robben.
With the World Cup trophy on the line, the Dutch will need to do everything in their power to stop Messi—and with enough talent and a bit of luck, they just may be able to do so.
The Netherlands’ first plan will be to “cut the supply line to Messi,” defender Bruno Martins Indi told Dutch website nu.nl, according to Fox News (via the Associated Press).
In order to stifle Messi’s ability, the Dutch will need to play tough and consistent defense to keep the ball away from the Argentine forward. This was considered a weak point coming into the World Cup, but the team has shown that it can hang tough when it needs to.
Their challenge will be actually being able to accomplish this, which they will need to do by playing more physically against him and limiting his time with the ball.
Take a look at the following video to see all of Messi’s World Cup goals thus far. Especially impressive is his shot featured at 42 seconds—the man makes it look too easy.
Messi has earned himself an average of 9.41 on FIFA.com’s Castrol Index. While Messi finds himself coming in as the fourth ranked forward, the Netherlands’ Robben has a slightly higher average score of 9.59.
Wednesday’s matchup should prove to be one of the most exciting games of the competition, as both Robben and Messi are known for being two of the world’s most aggressive forwards, with Messi having scored four goals thus far in the World Cup and Robben three.
Robben will need to stay consistent and play even harder in Wednesday’s game if the team wants to win, considering he was unable to score a goal against Costa Rica last week until the game came down to penalty kicks. However, his contribution so far has been invaluable, according to Bleacher Report’s Daniel Edwards.
With three goals and one assist, Robben has been directly involved in four of the Oranje's 12 strikes so far in the tournament. He has broken into the area an astonishing 26 times with the ball, and 94 percent of his shots have been on target. Even against Costa Rica, without a doubt the poorest match of his World Cup so far, the Bayern star passed with an accuracy of over 80 percent and beat his man on seven out of 10 attempts over the 120 minutes.
Take a look at the following video clip starting at 23 seconds as Robben runs down the field and outwits two defenders and the goalie to score.
Robben, who Football Funnys' Twitter account says is the tournament's best player, just might be able to give Messi a run for his money in Wednesday’s matchup when it comes to scoring. Though the quote may be in jest, it's nearly impossible to deny his impact on the team's wins.
As long as the team’s defense can help slow down Messi, balanced with a strong offensive attack from Robben and the rest of the team, the Dutch will have a legitimate shot at beating Argentina and advancing the Netherlands to the World Cup final on Sunday.