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Netherlands, Argentina set to clash in World Cup semifinal

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The Sports Network
7/9/2014 2:55:12 PM
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The Netherlands can reach its second consecutive World Cup final with a victory over Argentina on Wednesday at the Area de Sao Paulo.

Listen to the game live on TSN 1050, TSN 690, TSN 1200, TSN 1260 and TEAM 1410 at 4pm et/1pm pt.

The Dutch reached the World Cup final in South Africa in 2010 after topping Uruguay, 3-2, but faced Spain in the final and fell 1-0.

Louis van Gaal's side will surely draw motivation for Wednesday's clash from that defeat, something not lost on midfielder Wesley Sneijder.

"Sometimes you have to suffer to obtain success," he said. "The final in 2010 was very painful but the disappointment drives you on.

"We feel we have more experience, a strong squad, some great players and now we know it is so close for us again. We have come through so much together and grown with the tournament. Now it gets even harder."

The Dutch should be riding high on confidence after knocking off the tournament's Cinderella squad on Saturday, topping Costa Rica 4-3 on penalty kicks after the sides played to a scoreless draw in extra time.

The Dutch controlled much of the match but only created their first real scoring opportunity in the 21st minute when Robin van Persie latched on to Memphis Depay's through ball and fired a left-footed shot on target, but Keylor Navas was able to parry the attempt to the top of the penalty area. The clearance only went as far as Sneijder, who lashed the rebound back toward goal, but Navas was equal to the task once again.

Navas denied Sneijder again in the 39th minute when the Galatasaray midfielder uncorked a brilliant free kick from distance that looked destined for the upper corner, but the Levante 'keeper pushed the shot aside to send the two sides into halftime scoreless.

The Dutch continued to find scoring chances in extra time as Costa Rica looked absolutely exhausted. Sneijder hit the woodwork for a second time when he took a layoff from Jeremain Lens in the 119th minute and curled a superb effort toward goal with his favorite right foot, and a relieved Navas could only help but watch the strike come back into play off the crossbar.

Heading into the penalty shootout, Van Gaal used his final substitution to replace goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with Newcastle United 'keeper Tim Krul and the move was a masterstroke as Krul stopped two Costa Rica penalties to hand his side the victory.

"In terms of team spirit and togetherness, this is the best group I've worked with. I thought we had more quality than Costa Rica and deserved to win. I don't know how much ball possession we had, how many times we hit the woodwork and how many chances we had -- in the end it's all about scoring," Van Gaal said. "We have practiced pens, I believe when you're used to a certain way of shooting you'll be more comfortable taking that shot. We told Tim Krul that he would be the best goalkeeper for the penalties as he's bigger; we didn't tell Cillessen, as we didn't want to ruin his preparation and concentration. There is no question about who will start next game, it will be Cillessen. But we felt Krul was the better choice here -- and he proved that. He guessed the correct way for every penalty."

Argentina heads into its first semifinal since 1990 hoping to earn a chance to play for its third Jules Rimet trophy, having already advanced further than their 2010 campaign when the side was thumped, 4-0, by Germany in the quarterfinals.

Argentina also knocked off a potential Cinderella in the quarterfinals after earning a 1-0 victory over Belgium courtesy of a goal from Gonzalo Higuain at the Estadio Nacional.

Through this World Cup, Argentina's performances have left plenty to be desired, but they've gotten the necessary results and Wednesday represents an opportunity to put in a quality performance against a very good opponent.

The goal came after just eight minutes as Angel Di Maria attempted to deliver a pass into the penalty area that was deflected by a Belgium defender. The ball fell kindly to the feet of Higuain and he hammered a first-time shot perfectly inside the left post.

"Ever since the first game I've been saying that I wasn't worried, that my first goal would come, and fortunately it came at a crucial time," Higuain said. "It's been a long time since Argentina reached the semifinals and I'm happy it's this group of players that managed it, because they deserve it. Now we want to keep going and reach the final."

Alejandro Sabella's team will have a significant void to fill on Wednesday as Di Maria was forced off the pitch in the 33rd minute with a thigh injury 33rd minute, was replaced by Enzo Perez, and is unavailable for Wednesday.

Despite the injury, Sabella's team will hope for more than just a semifinal appearance.

"We've achieved our minimum objective, which was to reach the last four, but we want more. That's what we've come for," Sabella said.



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