Goalscoring's dropped in the World Cup knockout rounds and these two teams have not been immune to that trend. After scoring 10 goals during the group stage, the Netherlands have been able to muster just one in their two knockout round games.
Argentina wasn't exactly setting the world on fire with their performances during their group stage, but they did score six goals. It took them 118 minutes to score against Switzerland, and in their next game against Belgium, Lionel Messi and Co. managed just two shots on target.
Whoever can get their attack flowing again will almost certainly be the team which emerges victorious in Sao Paulo on Wednesday afternoon.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: If goalscoring has been a problem, then goal prevention is just fine. The two teams conceded just one goal combined in their last four games and benefitted from a few managerial decisions. Alejandro Sabella inserted Martin Demichelis into the lineup against Belgium and the Manchester City player drew rave reviews. Louis van Gaal used both a four- and five-man backline and overcame the loss of midfield bulldog Nigel de Jong.
CILLESSEN GETS THE NOD: All indications are that Jasper Cillessen will keep his starting spot against Argentina despite being pulled for Tim Krul prior to penalty kicks against Costa Rica. Cillessen was visibly upset after he was benched and was seen kicking water bottles in frustration. What will his mindset be when he takes the field in Sao Paulo?
ADM MIA BUT KUN RETURNS: Argentina will be taking the field against Netherlands without world-class midfielder Angel di Maria on Wednesday. Di Maria suffered a thigh injury against Belgium and looks to be out for the rest of the World Cup. There is good news for Sabella, though. Sergio Aguero appears to be ready to go after missing La Albiceleste’s last two games. Will he be inserted into the starting lineup alongside Messi and Gonzalo Higuain?
CAN ROBBEN FIND SPACE?: Arjen Robben was the Netherlands’ best attacking threat against Costa Rica. They fed him consistently on his preferred right wing and tasked him with creating for his teammates and himself. While he was dangerous throughout the match, Robben was only able to create one chance from open play and had all five of his shots blocked by the Ticos. He will be looking to find more open areas against the Argentinian defense.
MESSI TIME: With Neymar and James Rodriguez leaving the tournament in the last round, it appears that it is finally time for Messi to step into the spotlight at a World Cup. Although he did not score against Belgium, he did provide the pass of the tournament when he hit di Maria with an incredible through ball.
THE STAR YOU KNOW
- Robin van Persie, forward, Netherlands – He showed why he’s a star in the group stage, but he has yet to score in the knockout round throughout his World Cup career. Oranje fans will be looking to him to finally break his duck against Argentina.
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU
- Enzo Perez, midfielder, Argentina – The Benfica man came on for di Maria after his injury and proved to be one of Argentina’s best players. Look for him to get the start against the Netherlands.