Javier Mascherano was absolutely scintillating against Netherlands; being a massive rock that ultimately protected their defence till the end of the gameEveryone knew the threat coming in from the Dutch. With Robben, Van Persie and Sneijder forming a formidable attacking trio, the challenge was always to stop and nullify their presence. And that's precisely what the Argentineans did.
It was strange, I won't deny. To see Argentina; a side known for its flair and graceful style of play; adopt a rather conservative approach was certainly something that was odd, but understandable. Against the Dutch, its extremely crucial to be tactically sound and Mascherano was certainly the highlight of the game.
He was employed in a fundamental position to curb the Dutch attacks, and that's precisely what he did. He sat deep and dictated the tempo of the game, which primarily halted the flow of Robben and Robin van Persie. The Dutch skipper worked hard in order to get into crucial positions, but the ammunition struggled to reach him, due to the over-arching role of Mascherano in nullifying these balls.
But beyond that, Mascherano was equally influential in moving the ball forward as well. He rarely misplaced a ball yesterday, and opened up various avenues for the Argentineans on the break. Every single time Netherlands were dispossessed in the middle, Mascherano was usually present to collect the ball and provide a defence splitting pass that allowed Messi, Higuain and Lavezzi to push forward.
But with both sides remaining solid defensively, the game marched into penalty shoot-outs, where the Argentineans ultimately triumphed. It's easy to showcase Sergio Romero as the hero of the game, but if one were too analyse the role of Mascherano throughout the 120 minutes, it was inevitable for him to be awarded the man of the match award. He certainly depicted his Inner Strength to earn the bragging rights.
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