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History hangs heavy as Dutch, Argentina clash

By Pabitra Gogoi

SAO PAULO, July 8 � A mouth-watering contest is on the cards as former champions Argentina and finalists the Netherlands are bracing up to seal a spot at the Maracana Stadium tomorrow.

The Argentines beat wildcards Belgium in the high voltage quarter-finals riding on a lone goal by an impressive Gonzalo Higuain. By this goal they also proved that they need not depend much on their superstar and captain Lionel Messi. Manchester City defender Martin Demichelis may start again for the former champions as he performed brilliantly alongside Ezequiel Garay and proved to be a powerhouse in the air, media report reveals here.

Injured Manchester City frontliner Sergio Aguero was cleared by the doctors to play in the semi-finals, although it is not yet certain whether he will be in the starting line-up. However, as per reports available here, Angel Di Maria suffered a thigh injury and will probably miss the remainder of the tournament.

The Netherlands, runners- up of the last edition, eliminated the surprise of the championship Costa Rica with a rather unusual move by manager Louis van Gaal who replaced his starting goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with Newcastle�s Tim Krul for the penalty shoot-out. The risk paid off as Krul saved two penalty kicks but the Ajax keeper looks to be returning under the bars after all. Manchester United striker Robin van Persie seems to have overcome his injury problems as he played 120 minutes in the quarter-final and proved to be a reliable force up front for the rest of the tournament.

Roben also has to play a vital role as he did in the previous matches.

�The semi-finals are fantastic, but we know what it feels like to lose a World Cup, and we would love to win,� Dutch utility man Dirk Kuyt told FIFA.Com.

�Argentina are a world-class team and they deserve to be in the last four. But we want to measure ourselves against the best, and not only measure, but win. That�s why we�re here.�

Louis van Gaal was heralded for a decisive tactical switch against Mexico and then pulled off a masterstroke against Costa Rica by sending on reserve goalkeeper Tim Krul, who saved two penalties in the shootout.

The future Manchester United manager has played with a three-man defence in three of Holland�s five games to date and his innovations mean that his team-sheet will be awaited with great anticipation. One name unlikely to feature, however, is centre-back Ron Vlaar, who is a serious doubt due to a knee injury.

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella, whose side beat Belgium 1-0 in the quarter-finals, is without influential midfielder Angel Di Maria due to injury, but left-back Marcos Rojo is available again after suspension. Gonzalo Higuain�s goal against Belgium showed that Argentina are not entirely dependent on Messi, but midfielder Javier Mascherano has warned his side that they face an evening of knife-edge tension on Wednesday.

�We know that we are going to play against a team that is at its best when playing on the counter-attack, because of the pace they have in attack,� said the Barcelona player. �We need to make sure we don�t lose the ball unnecessarily. Concentration will be key, along with the way we set our stall out in the match, and we will need to be patient when it comes to making decisions.�

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