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As Argentina & Netherlands face-off in the semi-final of the World Cup, we have compiled an XI of the best players from each team based on their performances solely in this tournament, with positional strength a criteria.
He may not be top dog while on loan to Monaco with appearances limited largely to the Cups but he is unarguably Argentina’s number 1. Having kept 3 clean sheets in the tournament thus far, his experience has been valuable in marshaling the Argentine defence.
The no-nonsense defender is one of the old school who goes about his job with minimum fuss. The Manchester City man has played every minute for the South American giants and will once again be looking to balance defensive stability and attacking contribution against the Dutch.
Aston Villa’s big centre-back isn’t exactly a star name but he has been an asset for the Dutch. Solid at the back, Vlaar was strikingly impressive in their rout of defending Champions Spain at the start of the tournament and has continued in the same manner. The defender will have a key role in keeping Higuain at bay.
Stefan de Vrij
In a defence with a distinctive Feyenoord flavour, de Vrij has been impressive especially with his positional play. Tasked with man marking at times, the young defender has shown his defensive discipline. Like teammate Bruno Martins Indi, he might well be on the move this summer but for the foreseeable future he has an important role as the Dutch look to seal their place in the final.
The versatile player has featured in 3 different positions thus far in the World Cup but has looked his best in the left-back position. Revisiting their memorable defeat of Spain, Blind thrived in the space afforded to him in an attacking capacity and was crucial in the Dutch comeback especially his pin-point pass in setting up that Van Persie goal.
Nigel de Jong
The Dutchman has supposedly been ruled out of the World Cup ( De Telegraaf has been reporting a surprise return. ) however regardless he has been an important component for the Dutch. With his central midfield partner tasked with joining a higher 4 man line, de Jong has been tasked with doing what he does best, patrol the area in front of the defence.
Belonging to the same category as de Jong, although perhaps better on the ball, Mascherano is responsible for screening his back 4 and providing supply to the gifted front-line. Coupled with Gago on most occasions this World Cup, Mascherano will see his importance only rise as the stakes get higher in the tournament.
Every team has their own match winner, a player who can turn a game around in the blink of an eye. In the battle of match winners though, very few can match up to Lionel Messi. Captaining his national side, the diminutive genius has most certainly come to the party in Brazil. With drops of the shoulder and dribbles galore, Messi will look to be at his majestic best to break down the Dutch rearguard.
Robben is not an unknown commodity by any stretch of the imagination and yet has emerged as one of the best players this tournament. Using his searing pace to get at opposition defenders, Robben has been especially lethal as the game progresses. In an awe-inspiringly chaotic ending to the game against Costa Rica, the Dutchman was majestic. Give Robben space and he’ll give you hell.
Angel di Maria
With all due respect to the entire Argentina squad, the only player who is close to captain Messi is Angel di Maria. The lanky attacking midfielder possesses a lethal left foot and turn of pace. Certainly not shy to let fly, if the midfielder is not fit for the semi-final then he will be sorely missed by Sabella.
Robin van Persie
Starting the tournament on fire in the Group stages, Van Persie’s performances have tailed away a tad as the tournament has progressed. Concerns over his ability to last the distance may be raised but there’s no denying that even a 90% fit Van Persie is an asset to most teams. To be fair to the Dutch captain, he lasted 120 minutes against Costa Rica and calmly dispatched his penalty.