Your daily World Cup tip sheet for who's playing when, and what to watch for. We'll deliver a new briefing the evening before every game day, setting up the matches and pinpointing the underlying storylines.
This rematch of the 1978 World Cup final could well be one of the games of the tournament, although the Dutch will obviously hope it ends differently than the 3-1 loss it suffered in Buenos Aires 36 years ago – the only time Argentina has ever beaten the Netherlands.
The outcome of this contest is likely to come down to the two “geniuses” on display. Argentine forward Lionel Messi needs little introduction, having scored four goals already in this tournament to go with the odd couple he’s scored for Barcelona over the years. On the other side, Dutch manager Louis van Gaal is rapidly bolstering his reputation as one of world soccer’s canniest coaches, and if concocting a 5-1 demolition of reigning world and European champions Spain in Holland’s opener wasn’t enough, the goalkeeping switch seconds before the penalty shootout against Costa Rica in the last round proved something of a master stroke. That victory was the Netherlands first ever in a World Cup game that went beyond the regulation 90 minutes, so confidence will not be a problem in the Dutch camp, but getting forwards Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie back among scoring ranks will be a must after the pair contrived to fire blanks in the last three games.
Argentina will have to deal with the loss of attacking midfielder Angel di Maria for this game, but will be bolstered by the return of Diego Maradona’s son-in-law, Sergio Aguero. If Aguero can link effectively with Messi and display the form he does so consistently for Manchester City in the English Premier League, it could be a long afternoon for the Netherlands, a team desperate to remove its moniker of the best national team never to win a World Cup crown.