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Arjen Robben Targeted for Argentina 'Attack,' Louis Van Gaal Eyes Lionel Messi

Netherlands' Arjen Robben attends an official training session one day before their World Cup semifinals soccer match against Argentina at the Paulo Machado de Carvalho Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press
Rob BlanchetteFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2014

As the dust settles on Brazil's humiliating exit from their home World Cup, focus quickly switches to the second semi-final, with Argentina promising to rough up Arjen Robben.

Ian Ladyman of the Mail Online reports how the South Americans intend to deal with Robben, who has arguably been the player of the tournament so far.

Ladyman quotes Argentina and Manchester City defender Martin Demichelis, who pulls a few punches when revealing how his side will stop the flying Dutchman:

We have to be aggressive, to show the passion of the Argentine players to the Dutch - and especially to Robben. He doesn’t like physical contact, so you have to make him feel it and get under his skin. He is a phenomenon but he’s not got much edge, he’s not a fighter. Therefore you have to attack him.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Robben has had a sensational tournament for the Netherlands, translating his Bayern Munich form to the biggest stage in world football.

During the campaign, the 30-year-old has hit three goals and provided one assist in his five appearances, per WhoScored.com, and a victory over Argentina will seal his status as a candidate for the competition's best player.

But as Argentina must stop Robben, in turn the Dutch must derail Lionel Messi, with Louis van Gaal hinting he has a plan for this.

LvG spoke candidly about the match and said, per Ladyman:

We are playing against Argentina and we always refer to teams and not individual players. We have a plan ready for Argentina. We showed the players Argentina this morning. Messi was once elected best footballer in the world. There’s a reason for that. If you score so many goals, you have an added value.

At the most important stage he can always pull it off but in principle he’s always found it difficult to show that at an international level. He wants to do that at this tournament and we want to stop him doing that, so that’s going to be quite a challenge.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Van Gaal and his side are likely to use the 5-3-2 formation that was so effective against Spain in the opening match―the 5-1 scoreline does not lie.

But Spain did not have Messi in their team, and if the genius can play to his full capacity, there is every chance the Netherlands will be compromised.

However, Van Gaal has shown he is a consummate tactician at the World Cup, so if anyone can formulate a plan to stop the best player on the planet, it is him.

BBC Radio's Bill Rice waxed lyrical about LvG, saying that if the coach succeeds in halting Messi, his country will not want to let his tenure end.

He tweeted:

Unlike Brazil on Tuesday, the Netherlands have the quality to beat their superior opponents in Sao Paulo. The Dutch play as a collective and they have proven their best is good enough to beat the most illustrious of opponents, as Spain found out to their cost.

But Messi is a special player, the like we have arguably never seen before. His form in 2013-14 has been called into question but over the past two weeks he has looked mentally sharp and physically ready.

The semi-final match against the Dutch is his to win or lose, and if he puts in one of his special performances—combined with a shut-down job on Robben—there might just be a South American representative in the final. 

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