120 minutes were not sufficient to decide the second finalist of World Cup 2014. In the penalty shootouts Argentina came on top of the Netherlands to make it to the Maracana. This match highly contrasted compared to the first semi-final, which produced eight goals. It appeared as if the Dutch were happy to just cancel out Argentinian threats. Even though the game was a bit boring, it produced some magic moments.

Alejandro Sabella started with Enzo Perez as Angel di Maria was injured. Fernando Gago made way for Lucas Biglia. Marcos Rojo was back in the team after sitting out against Belgium due to a suspension. Louis van Gaal brought back Nigel de Jong to the starting eleven.

Argentina - Netherlands Formation
Argentina – Netherlands Formation


Argentina manager Sabella used 4-2-3-1 formation with Javier Mascheranho and Biglia as holding midfielders. Lionel Messi played at the centre of the attack with Ezequiel Lavezzi to his left, Enzo Perez to his right and Gonzalo Higuain ahead of him.

Van Gaal preferred 3-4-1-2 formation. As usual Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie led the attack from the front. Dirk Kuyt played at right back for Netherlands in this match.

Argentina target Daley Blind and Bruno Martins Indi –

Argentina attack through their right in the FH - Four Four Stats Zone
Argentina attack through their right in the FH – Four Four Stats Zone

Seeing Daley Blind advancing higher up the pitch in the early stages of the game and Bruno Martins in a wide position, Argentina decided to take advantage of this.

Higuain dropped wide, dragging Ron Vlaar and Indi along with him and helped Perez overlap in the 13th minute.

Pablo Zabaleta got behind the Dutch defence for the first time after overlapping Perez, who was marked in a wide position in the 19th minute.

Messi was also seen posing problems to Indi and he was fouled twice by Indi in the first half.

Messi fouls suffered - FH - Four Four Two StatsZone
Messi fouls suffered – FH – Four Four Two StatsZone

Even Lavezzi was present on Argentina’s right flank. He collected a long ball from Mascheranho and dribbled past two Dutch defenders to cross the ball to Higuain.

Tackles by Blind and BMI - FH - Squawka
Tackles by Blind and BMI – FH – Squawka

Argentina players tried overloading the Netherlands left back region.

Heat map of Messi, Zabaleta, Higuain and perez - FH - Squawka
Heat map of Messi, Zabaleta, Higuain and perez – FH – Squawka

Due to this, Blind was, for most part of the first 45 minutes, pinned back in his own half. As Argentina were concentrating on Netherland’s left back position, Kuyt on the right back position was free to stride forward. But the Dutch did not make any attempts on the goal in the first half.

Halftime substitution –

Indi was replaced by Daryl Janmaat at the start of the second half. Kuyt made way for Janmaat by switching to left back position. Blind was pushed back to play alongside Vlaar. This change helped the Netherlands to attack from both the flanks and at the same time being strong at the back.

Biglia and Mascheranho –

Argentina’s defence looked strong. Netherlands were not allowed many chances on the goal – ad only 7 shots on target in the entire match and had to fire 45% of the shots from outside the 18 yard box.

Credit obviously goes to the two holding midfielders of Argentina, for not giving the Dutch forward more time on the ball. Mascheranho sat deep and operated in between the region between the two centre backs. He distributed the passes very well and with a passing accuracy 84%. Biglia was a bit more advanced. He worked hard by covering the space in the midfield region and laying off clever passes to the attacking midfielders of Argentina. Both the players made timely challenges to deny the Dutch from scoring.

Passes made by Mascheranho - Four Four StatsZone
Passes made by Mascheranho – Four Four StatsZone

Netherlands shine in the second half –

The Netherlands tried long balls to try and find Robben and van Persie. This was mainly due the large gap between the midfielders and the forwards. Netherland’s midfielders also tried switching the play to find unmarked players in the opposite flank.
Jordy Clasie, who replaced de Jong, played well by connecting the defence and attack. He was at the heart of Dutch midfield – received ball from all the directions and distributed to the flanks.


Messi and Vlaar –

The two players who played very well in this match were Messi and Vlaar.
Ron Vlaar had a very good game. Solid at the back, the Aston Villa defender helped Netherlands by closing down and dis-possessing Messi and Sergio Aguero.

Vlaar - Four Four StatsZone
Vlaar – Four Four StatsZone

Messi, who started as a central attacking midfielder, always found room to his right. He played well and posed problems for the Dutch defenders except Vlaar. Vlaar was on top of Messi throughout the game. Messi was usually closed down by 2 or 3 Dutch players, but he was never tightly marked.

Messi take-ons - Four Four Two StatsZone
Messi take-ons – Four Four Two StatsZone

Conclusion –
The Netherlands should have kept the possession of the ball for longer periods. They were afraid of Argentina’s forwards, so approached in a defensive manner.
Argentina switched to 4-4-2 system as soon as the possession was lost with Perez and Lavezzi joining Mascheranho and Biglia. The space between the defensive and midfield lines was very less and hence the Dutch had to play from wider positions.
Argentina vs Germany at the Maracana will be an interesting match and we have to wait and watch whether Sabella decides to take advantage of Lahm’s advanced positioning.


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