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World Cup

  • July 5, 2014
  • • 17:00
  • • Estádio Nacional de Brasília, Brasília, Distrito Federal
  • Referee: N. Rizzoli
  • • Attendance: 68551
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Argentina-Belgium Preview: Messi out to book semi-final spot

Argentina-Belgium Preview: Messi out to book semi-final spot

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Alejandro Sabella's side scraped through their last-16 clash against Switzerland and must improve to beat a Belgium team that also needed extra-time to reach the last-eight

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella will have breathed a sigh of relief after Angel Di Maria's late goal against Switzerland prevented the game from going to penalties, but another tough test on the way to their first World Cup title since 1986 awaits on Saturday in Brasilia against Belgium.

Sabella will have to make do without the services of left-back Marcos Rojo against the Europeans after the defender picked up his second yellow card of the tournament in the round of 16, with Jose Basanta expected to take his place.

Furthermore, Sergio Aguero remains unavailable due to injury, even though the Manchester City man returned to the training ground earlier this week for some light exercises ahead of a potential return in an eventual semi-final.

Aguero’s continued absence means that one of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Maxi Rodriguez is likely to start again versus Belgium, with the former seemingly sitting in pole position to get the nod.

Belgium boss Marc Wilmots, meanwhile, received some encouraging news from the treatment table concerning the fitness of Thomas Vermaelen, with the Arsenal man ready to make his comeback.

Vermaelen’s return could see either Jan Vertonghen or Daniel Van Buyten drop to the bench, although Wilmots could very well stick with the team that impressed against USA in the round of 16.

Tottenham star Mousa Dembele is doubtful for Saturday’s game due to a thigh injury and Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini are consequently expected to continue their partnership in midfield.
 
In attack, Wilmots will have to make a choice between Romelu Lukaku and Divock Origi as his starting striker, with the Chelsea man likely to return to the starting XI after his impressive performance off the bench against the USA.

Related

Field Report
Reader's Predictions
Top 3 Predictions
Players to Watch
Messi
Messi
Position: Striker
Squad Number: 10
Games Goals YC RC
7 4 0 0

The Barcelona star is undoubtedly one of the best players the world has ever seen and Argentina rely on him to guide them to their first World Cup win since 1986. Messi found the net in all of his side’s group stages, while he provided the assist for Angel Di Maria’s winner in the round of 16 victory over Switzerland. The prolific attacker might not be at his very best just yet, but he has delivered when it mattered most so far this tournament and he will be determined to again make an impact against Belgium.

Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne
Position: Midfielder
Squad Number: 0
Games Goals YC RC
4 1 0 0

The versatile midfielder was deemed not good enough by Chelsea last season and offloaded to Wolfsburg, but he has been one of the stars of the World Cup so far. De Bruyne has outshone more high-profile names such as Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini with his consistent performances and he played a major role in his side’s 2-1 win over USA after extra time in the round of 16 with a goal and an assist. Expect more of the same from the creative midfielder when Belgium battle it out with Argentina for a spot in the semi-finals.

Prediction

The South Americans have yet to hit peak form, but they will be high on confidence after their hard-fought win over Switzerland in extra-time and their relatively smooth progress from the group stages. Belgium, meanwhile, needed extra time as well versus USA after winning all their games in the group phase, but they will fancy their chances of reaching the semi-finals for the first time since 1986, too. Small details will decide Saturday’s encounter at the Estadio Mane Garrincha and the individual class of players such as Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria could make the difference.

Editor's Prediction

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