Dutch want World Cup revenge against Argentina
THE best team to have never won a World Cup will be out for a measure of revenge when it takes on Argentina in Thursday morning's semi-final in Sao Paulo.
The Netherlands have lost in the final three times, including a 3-1 defeat by the South Americans in extra-time in Argentina in 1978.
Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillesen, famously substituted out of last week's quarter-final against Costa Rica in the final minute of extra time, before replacement Tim Krul made two saves in the penalty shoot-out to give his team victory, admitted the 1978 result was in the back of the team's mind.
"It would be revenge if we win the World Cup," Cillessen said.
"But we have to wait for that. It's not a final. It's a semi."
And the man the Netherlands will clearly have to shut down is arguably the world's best player, four-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi.
The Argentinian maestro has struck four times in this World Cup, leading some commentators to suggest it is a case of "no Messi, no Argentina".
Because he is so devastating, every opposition side basically has to detail at least three or four players to try and suffocate him, or risk getting ripped apart.
That in turn takes some of the focus away from their attack, in turn putting the Argentine defence under less pressure.
In the Netherlands' case, it may mean their midfielders will be a little too pre-occupied with Messi to release star winger Arjen Robben as often as coach Louis van Gaal would like.
The hope in Argentina is that the immense Dutch workload in the past two weeks will take its toll in Sao Paulo.
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The Netherlands' version of the Tour de France has taken the team from Salvador to Porto Alegre, Sao Paulo, Fortaleza, back to Salvador and now Sao Paulo once more.
A lot of miles and a lot of heat.
That could explain the difficulty in getting past Costa Roca in the quarter-finals, although to be fair, the Oranje should probably have scored three or four goals in normal time.
If there is a problem, Argentina, which will be without Angel Di Maria (thigh), but regains Sergio Aguero (hamstring), will be ready to capitalise.
There is a growing feeling in the country that this will be the year a third World Cup trophy is added to the cabinet.
Certainly the words of midfielder Javier Mascherano before the quarter-final win over Belgium suggested the players were determined to put the disappointments of recent campaigns behind them.
"I say it to everyone," the Barcelona star roared. "I'm tired of eating shit. I want joy for those who follow us and everything."
- with The Independent