World Cup 2014 semi-final preview: Netherlands v Argentina
The Netherlands (5/4 to qualify for the final) and Argentina (odds-on at 8/13) have faced each other eight times in history, with four of those coming at World Cups. While Clockwork Orange have lost just once in this fixture (beating them four times), that defeat was their only meeting on South American soil, at the 1978 finals.
Argentina were victorious in that battle in their own country to lift the trophy, and are now new favourites at 9/4 to win their third World Cup.
Goals in this head-to head in recent years have been sparse, with just six scored in the last five games, and Coral offer a price of 13/8 for the match total to be under 1.5 again in 90 minutes. Odds of 13/2 say it will be 0-0 in normal time, like their previous battle at the 2006 tournament in Germany in the group stage.
Argentina have managed to win all their games so far by just one goal, so expect this to be a close encounter again. You can take odds of 11/2 for Alejandro Sabella’s side to win 1-0, or 10/1 for a 2-1 victory, both in 90 minutes.
The Dutch (7/2 World Cup outsiders) are aiming to reach their second consecutive finals, and fourth in total, while Argentina are playing in their first last four match in 24 years.
Coral are offering a number of specials in this semi-final, and perhaps the most intriguing and enticing of them is for controversial Netherlands winger Arjen Robben to be awarded a penalty for a direct foul against him at 12/1.
Bayern Munich star Robben has even admitted diving this tournament, and gained a late spot kick for his country in the last 16 showdown with Miguel Herrera’s Mexico, being brought down by Rafael Marquez.
On top of that, Martin Demichelis, who started in Argentina’s win over Belgium in the quarters, could be in the line-up again. The much-maligned centre back was involved in a costly calamitous penalty decision for Manchester City against Barcelona in the Champions League last season, fouling compatriot Lionel Messi, before getting sent off.
Although Demichelis will now be on the same side as Messi, he has to go up against another tricky left footed forward superstar in Robben, so betting on a case of deja vu is surely worthwhile.
Louis van Gaal’s side are joint-top scorers at this World Cup (on 12 with Colombia), but failed to find the net against Costa Rica. They came through that tense battle after a shootout, thanks to super-sub keeper Tim Krul, and there are special odds of 11/2 (with a maximum bet of £20) for this match to go to penalties again.
However, if you fancy the Netherlands to get goals, look no further than deadly duo Robin van Persie and Robben, who both have both scored three each at these finals. They are 15/8 and 2/1 respectively to net anytime (in 90 minutes). Van Persie is involved in a Coral special wincast (maximum stake of £20), where he 5/1 to score and his country are victorious in normal time.
Messi, though, has one better with four, and is a 4/1 chance to net the opener and 5/1 to bag a brace or better. The Barcelona forward is two goals behind Colombia’s James Rodriguez – whose country are now out – and is second-favourite at 3/1 to be World Cup top scorer. If Messi is on target and Argentina win in 90 minutes, take odds of 3/1 (maximum bet of £20).
While Messi has been on top form these finals, his teammate Angel Di Maria, who netted the dramatic late winner against Switzerland in the last 16, has been ruled out for this semi. However, they are set to welcome back Sergio Aguero, who has recovered from a groin injury. The Man City attacker is priced at 7/4 to score in normal time.
Gonzalo Higuain netted the only goal against Belgium in the quarters, and is 15/8 to get a goal in 90 minutes again.