Skip to content

Three things we learned from Netherlands-Argentina

Jul 9, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

Brazil Soccer WCup Netherlands Argentina

After going scoreless across 90 minutes plus 30 minutes of extra time, Argentina will be joining Germany in the 2014 World Cup final after winning on penalties, 4-2.

It was hardly a classic but the match did provide a number of talking points.

Here are the three biggest ones, as we had them.

Is Louis van Gaal the Dutch Jose Mourinho? 

If we’re kind, we’ll call it practical. Or pragmatic. If we’re realistic, it was anti-football in it’s purest sense, dropping 10 men behind the ball to prevent Argentina from generating any sort of rhythm. How audacious of Louis van Gaal, forcing Robin van Persie to defend like that! But he did and perhaps it’s something that we should’ve seen coming, a ramped-up version of his side’s tactics against Costa Rica.

But why? Why force the ‘total football’ Dutch into such a putrid style?

Because with the exception of Wesley Sneijder, Holland’s starting midfield lacked the technical ability to play quality football. Georgino Wijnaldum? An outside player too often caught in the middle. Nigel de Jong? He simply lacks the wherewithal to possess around the Lucas Biglia‘s and Javier Mascherano‘s of the world. For 61 minutes, it was brutal to watch and, dare we say, a bit reminiscent of Jose Mourinho’s tactics at Chelsea.

But then something changed – Jordy Claise came on for De Jong and suddenly the skies opened up. Was this Van Gaal’s plan? To defend for 60 minutes, tire out the Argentine’s and then use Claise’s skill to possess the ball, spread the field and try a new approach? If so it seemed to be working because with De Jong off the pitch, the Dutch looked much more like the Dutch. And that’s a huge plus for Manchester United fans.

Lionel Messi slept through prom night

It was set up to be a career defining match for Lionel Messi. If he could compel his side through this match the one trophy that has thus-far evaded him would be at his feet: the World Cup. Holland’s tactics didn’t make things easy on him, especially Van Gaal’s decision to start De Jong, but even with things packed tight Messi didn’t demand enough of the ball. Too often he was seen standing on defenders, comfortable knowing that his mere presence in taking them away from teammates was doing enough. But it wasn’t.

Argentina needed more out of Messi, they needed a hero to step forward. In the first half a few tough but legal tackles had him looking frustrated and his only chance – a free-kick from 20 yards out – was put directly into the hands of the Dutch keeper. He wasn’t finding any space through the middle so in the second half he went wide only to once again find slim pickings. Despite what the announcers said, Messi did not provide Higuain with the service that saw him nearly score (that was Enzo Perez) although he did slip a probing ball to Sergio Aguero, who was in on goal but had his shot blocked. In extra-time he popped up once, crossing the ball to Maxi Rodriguez who’s shot was handled easily by Cillessen.

Yes, he did well to score his penalty. But on what should’ve been the biggest night of his career, Messi went missing.

With offense on ice, Javier Mascherano and Ron Vlaar were absolute monsters

For as drab a match as it was both defenses were incredible and in particular, Javier Mascherano and Ron Vlaar. Both are players of decent notoriety, the former more so than the latter, but this night each enjoyed the best match of his career. Mascherano was everywhere, an endless tank of energy, helping settle his side into possession moving forward and getting back to make some crucial tackles, a number of which were on the slippery Robben. Vlaar held the back line like a tugboat anchor, keeping fellow center-backs in shape and making a number of brilliant diving slide tackles on Lionel Messi. Yes, the Villa man missed his penalty but what was Van Gaal thinking having a defender lead the kicks in the first place?

Latest Posts
  1. Real Madrid and Brazil legend Roberto Carlos named manager of Delhi Dynamos

    Jul 5, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT

    Roberto Carlos Getty Images

    The Indian Super League continues to bring in the big names.

  2. Stephen Keshi sacked as Nigerian national team coach

    Jul 5, 2015, 2:22 PM EDT

    FBL-AFR-2015-NGR-SUD Getty Images

    After three stints managing the Super Eagles, Stephen Keshi is out once again.

  3. Women’s World Cup final tactics: Will United States get better of Japan?

    Jul 5, 2015, 1:35 PM EDT

    US midfielder Megan Rapinoe listens to teammates at a press conference in Vancouver on July 3, 2015, two days before the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final against Japan.   AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The U.S. defense has been unbreakable, and Japan loves to keep the ball. Something has to give in the final.

  4. Fiji smashes Micronesia 38-0…Yes, 38-0

    Jul 5, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT

    Fiji v Uzbekistan: Group F - FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015 Getty Images

    After making some tactical changes at the break, Micronesia held Fiji to just 17 second half goals.

  5. Javier Mascherano calls Argentina’s Copa America loss “torture”

    Jul 5, 2015, 12:21 PM EDT

    FBL-COPAM2015-ARG-CHI Getty Images

    After another brutal loss in a major tournament final, Argentina’s Javier Mascherano couldn’t explain what went wrong.

  6. MLS roundup: Villa brace leads NYCFC, Diaz shines for Dallas

    Jul 5, 2015, 11:25 AM EDT

    David Villa, David Villa,

    Catch up on all six of Saturday night’s MLS matches, right here.

  7. Could England women’s manager Mark Sampson be headed to the Premier League?

    Jul 5, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    Mark Sampson AP

    At 32 years of age, Sampson impressed many by leading England to a third-place finish in the Women’s World Cup.

  8. Sepp Blatter claims French and German presidents influenced World Cup voters

    Jul 5, 2015, 8:34 AM EDT

    Blatter AP

    Sepp’s not going down without a fight, now bringing major political leaders into the mix.

  9. WATCH: Robbie Keane nets hat trick, Kaka sees red in Saturday night MLS action

    Jul 5, 2015, 7:44 AM EDT

    Toronto FC v Los Angeles Galaxy Getty Images

    On the Fourth of July, there were fireworks all across Major League Soccer.

  10. United States, Japan meet in Women’s World Cup final with high hopes back home

    Jul 5, 2015, 7:40 AM EDT

    A view of the BC Place stadium in Vancouver on July 4, 2015 on the eve of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final football match USA vs Japan. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE        (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Both countries hope that this final will help bring further attention to the women’s game.

  11. Heather O’Reilly talks revenge on Japan, adjusting to bench role

    Jul 5, 2015, 4:51 AM EDT

    USA midfielder Heather O'Reilly (R) takes part in a training session at the BC Place stadium in Vancouver on July 4, 2015 on the eve of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final football match USA vs Japan. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE        (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Olympic gold medals are great, but this group wants a World Cup title.

  12. Krieger credits Ellis, communication for United States’ defensive success

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT

    USA defender Ali Krieger (R) vies with Germany's forward Anja Mittag during their 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup semi-final football match between USA and Germany at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal on June 30, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE        (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The U.S. hasn’t given up a goal in 513 minutes at this World Cup, heading into the final against Japan.

  13. MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew SC 2-1 New York Red Bulls

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    Ethan Finlay, Columbus Crew SC Getty Images

    Kei Kamara -> Ethan Finlay (x2) was all Crew SC needed to jump three places in the Eastern Conference.

  14. 2015 Copa America awards: Vargas, Guerrero beat Aguero, Vidal to top scorer

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:20 PM EDT

    Eduardo Vargas, Chile — 2015 Copa America semifinal Eduardo Vargas, Chile — 2015 Copa America semifinal

    Eduaro Vargas and Paolo Guerrero beat all the big names to the 2015 Copa America top scorer’s award.

  15. For Japan women’s national team, approach to game and life is team-first

    Jul 4, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    Members of Japan's national team joke during a training session in Vancouver on July 4, 2015, on the eve of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup final against the US.   AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The solidarity between Japan teammates — and between the two teams contesting the final — is remarkable.

  16. Chile 0-0 (4-1 PKs) Argentina: Chile’s first Copa America title in 99-year history (video)

    Jul 4, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT

    Chile, 2015 Copa America champions Chile, 2015 Copa America champions

    It took 99 years, but Chile are finally champions of South America after defeating Argentina in a penalty shootout.

  17. Steven Gerrard’s first gift to his new LA Galaxy supporters — cases of California beer

    Jul 4, 2015, 6:28 PM EDT

    Steven Gerrard, LA Galaxy Steven Gerrard, LA Galaxy

    Steven Gerrard is winning points with LA Galaxy supporters before ever stepping on the field for his new club.

  18. Transfers confirmed: Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid sign Douglas Costa, Jackson Martinez

    Jul 4, 2015, 6:07 PM EDT

    Douglas Costa, FC Bayern Munich Getty Images

    Regulars in the latter stages of the Champions League, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid continue their summer spending sprees.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip