TWO-TIME WORLD champions Argentina take on Holland in the second semi-final of the 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil tonight in Sao Paulo in what is likely to be a repeat of the 1978 final in Buenos Aires when the hosts prevailed 3-1 in extra-time to win their first title.
Argentina and the Netherlands are two of the biggest footballing nations in the world and their meeting is expected to catch the imagination of fans round the world.
The stakes are so high for both teams and so is the tension, expectations as well as pressure to win or at least not to lose; it is the biggest game yet for either team in this year’s tournament.
Both teams are unbeaten thus far, but while Alejandro Sabella’s Argentina won their quarterfinal clash 1-0 against Belgium, Louis Van Gaal’s Dutch side needed penalty shootouts to overcome Costa Rica 4-3 after the 120 minutes had ended goalless.
The captains of both teams, Robin Van Persie of Holland and Lionel Messi of Argentina are the biggest stars but it is the latter, a four-time World Player of the Year, who will be at the center of attention for those watching from either inside the Arena Corinthians or on television around the world.
While RVP has managed three goals in the tournament and looked out of sorts against Costa Rica, Messi has score four and looks to be the focal point for the South Americans in all their games.
The 27-year old Barcelona forward has been compared to the greatest players of all-time but critics say he can never be the greatest until he wins the World Cup, so that should be an incentive for him to put on the biggest show of his career at the international level in tonight’s game.
After the Belgium game, his coach Sabella compared him to water in the desert, for he does things happen for his team, which is the main reason all eyes will be on him to do exactly that in is probably the biggest game of his life--he has never been this far in a World Cup.
The Argentina fans here is Sao Paulo, Messi is one of the greatest footballers ever with or without winning the World Cup, and they will be glad to see him and his team mates just reach the final.
“He has nothing to prove to anyone, what he has done and achieved in career is enough to put him alongside the likes of Maradona and Pele, but of course we would like to see him win the World Cup this year,” says Henrique, an Argentinean working at one of one the posh hotels in Sao Paulo.
But against the Netherlands, who are seeking their first first ever world title despite reaching three finals in 1974, 1978 and 2010, Messi and co face a daunting task, one which they must negotiate without midfielder Angel Di Maria, who has been one of their best performers here in Brazil.
The good news for the Albiceleste is they have striker Sergio Aguero back to fitness and is expected to be in the starting team--the Manchester City star has not played since limping out in the group against Nigeria.
However, history favours the Dutch ahead of tonight’s clash as they have won four and lost just one of the previous eight meetings between the two teams.