On Wednesday, Argentina and the Netherlands will face off in a World Cup semi-final. The two squads are closely matched in skill and intensity. The expectation on Robben’s and van Persie’s shoulders to create chances can be matched only by the pressure that Lionel Messi feels to bring a World Cup home to Argentina.
Both teams staved off threats in the quarterfinals, and both have unfinished business in the World Cup final. The Netherlands look to win after coming agonizingly close to their first World Cup championship four years ago, only to lose on a goal in the 117th minute. Argentina looks to return to glory not felt since Diego Maradona led the Argentine side to a championship in 1986.
While a championship is the ultimate goal, and while the match at hand is the most important, their respective paths to this point must inform the moment.
While this semifinal game will likely be another exciting World Cup match, the odds I originally saw all over the Internet were somewhat puzzling.
A number of high-traffic sites gave Brazil the advantage, some at an 80 percent chance of advancing. The official odds, though, are more of a toss-up.
Brazil is missing its star, Neymar, after he suffered a fractured vertebra late in the quarterfinal against Colombia. It’s also missing captain Thiago Silva, who received his second yellow card of the tournament in the 64th minute of the same game. That means he’ll be suspended for the match. With the two best players out for the match, all hopes of the host country getting through to the final seem tenuous at best.
Brazil appealed to FIFA about the second booking, but it was never likely FIFA would reverse the decision. It would be incredibly controversial to do so, and FIFA is already getting enough flack for its selection of Qatar as the 2022 host of the World Cup. (Really, I still don’t get that, bribery or not.)