5 things about the Netherlands vs Argentina showdown

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5 things about the Netherlands vs Argentina showdown

1. Midfielder Angel di Maria is out. How will Argentina cope?
While he is probably not the first Argentinian player whose name will roll off the lips of football fans, the absence of Angel di Maria to a thigh injury has given manager Alejandro Sabella a huge problem.

According to Fifa's player rankings, the Real Madrid midfielder actually outperformed his more illustrious team-mate Lionel Messi, with a rating of 9.46 as compared to the latter's 9.41.

Considering how the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero, who is expected to play some part in this match after returning from an injury to his left leg, have not performed to their true potential so far, Sabella will have to tinker with his squad to get the two-time world champions firing.
2. Will we see a repeat of Dennis Bergkamp's 1998 magic ?

In the quarter-finals of World Cup 1998, the Netherlands were tied 1-1 with Argentina when Arsenal great Dennis Bergkamp broke La Albiceleste hearts in the dying stages with one of the best goals in the tournament's history.

Running into the right side of Argentina's penalty box, Bergkamp leapt to take down a long ball. As defender Roberto Ayala came charging in, he cooly flicked the ball past him before rifling a shot past goalkeeper Carlos Roa into the top of the net.

With the likes of Messi and Arjen Roben set to take the field, we may be in store for yet another piece of individual brilliance.
3. Who should we keep an eye for on the sidelines?

If ever a television producer decides to train a camera on a manager in a football game, the Netherlands vs Argentina semi-final clash will be a good time to do it.

It will be interesting to have an uninterrupted look at wily tactican Louis van Gaal and how he conjures up more tactical surprises like he did with cooling breaks against Mexico in the second round, and changing goalkeepers for the penalty shootout against Costa Rica in the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, a constant view of Sabella may just provide some comic relief for viewers in case the match does not live up to expectations.

Sabella, who played for English sides Sheffield United and Leeds United between 1978 and 1981, had become an accidental online sensation after his backward fall in reaction to Higuain's shot hitting the crossbar against Belgium was turned into several hilarious memes.

4. Will there be a card-fest with no-nonsense Cuneyt Cakir the referee?
The man in the middle for this clash is 37-year-old Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir, who has developed a reputation of a card-wielding, no-nonsense official in this tournament.

In the two World Cup matches that he has officiated in so far – a 0-0 draw between Brazil and Mexico and a 1-1 draw against Algeria – Cakir has shown a total of nine yellow cards, averaging 4.5 cards per match.

That rate is higher than tournament's average of 2.8 cards after the quarter-finals.

With Netherlands a team with the third-highest number of fouls (91) in the tournament, Cakir may be in for a busy time.

5. Will the match finish by regulation time?
Brace yourself for the possibility of this match going into extra-time.
With both sides totalling just five goals in their last two rounds of matches, the signs seem to be pointing towards a low-scoring game.
Unless Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain suddenly hits form, or the Dutch forward line of Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder stop being wasteful, it is likely that the match could become mired in a dour battle in midfield without any incisiveness in attack.
So prepare more coffee to stay up later in the early morning.