by Rob Shepherd.
How to solve a problem like Lionel Messi..?
That is the question which will test the tactical acumen of Louis Van Gaal to the limit in the second semi-final of the 2014 World Cup.
And even if LVG got all his tactics spot on Messi has the ability to wriggle out of any shackle in a split second and change the game.
Perceived wisdom is that it is waste of time to man-mark Messi because the Argentine can lose that player in an instant then pull the rest of the team out of shape, or exploit his shadow by taking him out of the way to offer team mates room.
But given that LVG is considering a recall for Nigel de Jong he could well ask his acerbic midfielder to marshal Messi’s movement.
Then again the Dutch system of three central defenders with two wing backs (3-4-3) would seem ideally suited to confront Messi.
The semi ‘sweeper’ system – Ron Vlaar is more central centre-back than libero – means that he, Stefan de Vrij or Bruno Martins Indi can all step out of their back row roles into the midfield pocket where Messi stalks, often walks around, waiting to get the ball then go on his mazy way, comfortable there is cover behind to cope with the forwards.
If Holland’s three Lions keep their concentration and compress the space in front of them when Messi has the ball then he can be stopped.
Given the resilient nature of the Argentine defence it could unfold as an absorbing , chess like tactical battle – unlike the first semi-final!
Some bookmakers are offering as much as 1,000/1 for either team to win 7-1 in the wake of Germany’s astonishing win over Brazil.
But clearly Corals think lightening can strike twice and offer 300/1 on a repeat scoreline of last night’s semi final.
More realistically a 1-1 draw is 5/1 whilst a 0-0 is 7/1.
When Kempes Rocked the World!
The images remain strong for those who recall the 1978 World Cup Final.
The pitch was strewn with white ticker tape, and then there was Mario Kempes, long dark curly hair like a rock star of the day, with socks around his ankles wearing Puma King.
Kempes had given hosts Argentinathe the lead, but with eight minutes left Holland equalised through Dick Nanninga. But Kempes restored Argentina’s lead and Daniel Bertoni made sure with a third. Highlights below;