6 Players to Watch on Day 28 of the 2014 World Cup

Rob Dawson@@RobDawsonMENManchester United CorrespondentJuly 9, 2014

6 Players to Watch on Day 28 of the 2014 World Cup

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    The second World Cup semi-final takes place on Wednesday when Argentina face the Netherlands at Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo.

    In Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben, each team boasts one of the tournament's standout players. But only one will get the chance to play in Sunday's final against Germany, who humiliated hosts Brazil 7-1 on Tuesday.

    Here's a list of six players who have a key role to play on Day 28 of the World Cup. Feel free to use the comments section below to agree, disagree or add your own selections.

Jasper Cillessen, Netherlands

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    Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen thought he was going to get his chance to shine as the Netherlands' quarter-final with Costa Rica drifted toward penalties.

    But manager Louis van Gaal had other ideas. He brought on back-up Tim Krul, who made himself the hero rather than the Ajax goalkeeper.

    Cillessen told The Telegraph's Henry Winter he was surprised by Van Gaal's decision, though he's already been told he'll start against Argentina.

    It is a pity I wasn’t told, but it worked very well. I had to accept it. I am happy with the coach and he wants me to play [against Argentina]. It worked well as he made two saves. He is the big man now. But why should it affect my confidence? It will not affect my confidence. I have make sure we do not get into penalties.

    Cillessen will be back in goal against Argentina in the semi-final. But it's likely he'll have to stand in the shadows again if the game goes to penalties.

Javier Mascherano, Argentina

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    Argentina's World Cup campaign in Brazil has been dominated by Lionel Messi. And if they win it, history, over time, might remember that he did it all by himself.

    But that won't be the case.

    In quotes carried by the London Evening Standard's Andy Hodgson, defender Javier Mascherano said his team are confident heading into the semi-final match with the Netherlands.

    This Dutch team have got a lot of experience and they’re hungry for success after losing the final in 2010, so we’ll have to be on our guard. We’re excited and we feel strong. We know we can put in another good performance.

    Mascherano, especially, has been quietly impressive. After all, it's not down to Messi that Argentina have kept three clean sheets in their five games.

Tim Krul, Netherlands

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    It's rare that two goalkeepers from the same team should appear in a list of a game's key men. That's especially true in a game as big as a World Cup semi-final.

    Then again, it's even more rare that a manager replaces his keeper moments before a penalty shoot-out. As Tim Krul said, via The Telegraph's Henry Winter, Louis van Gaal's plan has maybe lost the element of surprise.

    When I started my warm-up the whole Costa Rican bench was confused about what was going on. Their manager's face when he saw me was priceless. He was looking over to see what our manager was doing. It definitely had an impact. It was a fantastic move.

    Jasper Cillessen will keep his place in the team when the Netherlands play Argentina, but Van Gaal may call on again Krul if a penalty shootout is needed to decide who moves on to Sunday's final against Germany.

Pablo Zabaleta, Argentina

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    Pablo Zabaleta has turned himself into one of the best right-backs in the Premier League over the last two-and-a-half seasons.

    His consistency has made him a fixture in the Argentina team too, but he faces a stern test against the Netherlands in the semi-finals.

    He will be tasked with keeping Arjen Robben quiet, who has used the World Cup to show that, even at 30 years old, he's still one of the best players in the world.

Robin van Persie, Netherlands

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    After a flying start to the World Cup, Robin van Persie has been frustrated during the Netherlands' knockout games.

    Against Mexico, he was was replaced by eventual match-winner Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. And against Costa Rica, he was denied a goal only by an outstanding performance from goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

    Dutch manager Louis van Gaal has admitted, per The Guardian's Owen Gibson, that the Manchester United striker is a doubt for the semi-final due to a stomach illness.

    He had some stomach problems, some intestinal problems so it’s better not to train then because you make it worse.

    Van Persie is our captain. So in that capacity alone he is very important. In principle my captain will always play but they have to be in good shape.

    Van Gaal will look to his big players to make a difference against Argentina in the semi-final. And Van Persie, assuming he can play, is certainly one of those.

Lionel Messi, Argentina

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    If Lionel Messi is ever going to end the debate about whether he belongs in the same conversation as Diego Maradona, he's going to have to win a World Cup.

    Daniel Edwards of Bleacher Report believes Messi's form in the group stages was reminiscent of the Argentina icon, writing:

    So far Messi has been far more important to Argentina's progress than Maradona was in 1986. The Napoli man hit just one goal in the first four matches, while striking partner Jorge Valdano led the way with three.

    Messi has done everything he can to make his mark in Brazil, including finding a burst of pace and energy to set up Angel Di Maria's late goal against Switzerland.

    In an interview with Adidas, per AS (via Paul Hirst of The Independent), Messi said that it's his "dream" to lift the World Cup.

    As a player winning a World Cup is the best there is. 

    It's something you dream about when you are a kid and it never disappears.

    I have asked my Barcelona team-mates Xavi, Iniesta and Pique what it is like to lift the trophy, and they couldn't explain.

    We will do everything to make this dream a reality.

    The Netherlands provide the next test in the semi-final on Wednesday. And Messi could do with rediscovering the goalscoring form that netted him four goals in three games in the group stages.