Clinging to the coat-tails of the great Lionel Messi, Argentina has put on a commanding display to beat the Netherlands 2-0 at ‘Striker Stadium’.
Playing in unseasonably warm conditions, the Argentinian’s rarely looked troubled as they took control of the game… although the Netherlands had their chances but failed to capitalize.
Indeed the opening moments of the match seemed ominous for the Dutch; Argentina were mesmerizing on the ball, playing with the kind of flair and confidence more typical of an exhibition match, rather than a crucial international. Their passing was crisp, their movement off the ball incisive, and there seemed little the Netherlands could do to counter the inevitable weight of possession and position. And yet somehow the Oranje fought their way slowly into the match, blunting Argentina’s thrusts and actually enjoying long passages of play where they dominated.
In the 29th minute Arjen Robben broke through the South Americans back line and beat the challenges of cover defense to dribble the ball all the way into the penalty box. His shot on goal was scrambled away for a corner and in the ensuing goal-mouth mayhem, Argentina’s clearance was intercepted. The Dutch pumped the ball straight back into a crowded penalty box where Robben had been left unmarked. The veteran striker had so much space he was even able to take a touch before shooting from just 7 yards. But incredibly his shot went over the bar. It was the beginning of the Netherland’s nightmare.
Goalmouth action: From the scramble of the Dutch corner kick, Argentina clear the ball from their penalty box, but the pass is intercepted and driven back towards the penalty spot where Robben waited unmarked. From just 7 yards out, the Dutch striker put the ball over the bar.
In the second half, the weight of possession finally told for Argentina. In the 54th minute Messi came alive, and in a single moment of sublime brilliance he tore the game apart.
Playing as a false 9 in behind the front line of Argentina’s attack, Messi received the ball at his feet 30 yards from goal, then exploded into a mesmerizing dribbling run. He was untouchable; unstoppable. He broke towards the byline and then gifted a short pass across the face of goal to Acosta who had a simple tap-in from a few yards to give Argentina a 1-0 lead.
That man Messi! After a mesmerizing run into the box, Messi cuts the ball across the face of goal for a simple tap-in and a 1-0 lead.
Despite Dutch resolve, the writing seemed to be on the wall. Messi began to dominate the tempo of the match, picking out teammates with precision passing and dictating the direction of each new raid into Dutch territory.
Against the run of play, a 75th minute through-ball from out of the Dutch midfield almost put the Netherlands back on equal terms. The moment came from an interception, and the pass forward was well weighted. Van Persie latched onto the pass on the edge of the Argentinian penalty box but needed a touch to bring the ball under control. Argentina’s defense herded the dangerous Dutch striker wide and when his shot came it was easily saved.
Argentina’s second goal came in the 88th minute. As the Netherlands were pushing desperately forward in search of an equalizer, the ball broke for Dybala who jinked down the left wing, dancing through a gap in the ragged Dutch defensive line. Forced wide and without support, Dybala still had the poise and composure to score from a difficult angle to seal a 2-0 victory and to add more pressure to a Dutch team currently struggling for confidence and rhythm.
‘Argentina were the better team,’ Dutch coaching staff lamented in the post-match press conference. ‘And once again Leo Messi proved why he is so highly rated around the world. He was the difference between the teams tonight and such displays of individual skill are things that no coach can counter. We have our own brilliant players… but this night they did not shine for us.’
Dybala seals Argentina’s 2-0 victory over the Netherlands with a commendable goal from a difficult angle.