In 1950 Uruguay beat Brazil to win the World Cup with the famous ‘Maracanazo’ and the images were seen all over the world. If Brazil reach the final this time and have to play Argentina, those memories will come flooding back.
The worst thing that can happen to Brazil is to have to face Argentina next Sunday. It’s the worst possible scenario for them in a final because there would be 40,000 Argentines in the stadium, in what would be a home match for Brazil, and that could generate a negative psychological state for them amid an adverse result or situation in the game.
Brazil need to beat Germany first and Argentina have to get past Netherlands. Those games are evenly balanced, 50 per cent, but if Argentina get to the final, they’ll win it – especially if they play Brazil.
Argentina looked much more balanced against Belgium and played much closer together, which allowed them to defend better as a group. They played with more intensity and were more aggressive than in previous games. There was never any doubt that they wouldn’t win the game and from the very start of the match there was only one team convinced they would progress to the semi-finals – and that was Argentina.
It’s so important for Argentina to be back there among the four best teams in the world. The players and the coaching staff won’t be satisfied with reaching the semi-finals, but it means a return to a place where Argentina – for various reasons – haven’t been since 1990, even though they have often played well.
Their play in this World Cup still may not be as eye-catching as many would have hoped, but they are getting that luck you need and as I said in a previous column, they have a goalkeeper on great form and a decisive player in Messi who can lead them to the final. They are on the right track and firmly focused on their objective.
Angel Di Maria’s injury is a blow because he can beat players and there are no other footballers in the squad with his characteristics, so it will need an ever greater effort from the rest of the team. But I believe, because of the way they are winning their games, Argentina are on their way to playing in another final.
They are up against a great rival in Netherlands, though. The Dutch are in the semi-finals for the second time in a row and they play very direct, fast football, led by an on-form Arjen Robben. They also have a good chance.
Louis Van Gaal is a great coach. His decision to replace Jasper Cillessen with Tim Krul for the penalty shootout against Costa Rica showed great bravery and great conviction. It’s very easy to say ‘well done Van Gaal’, but perhaps if things had turned out differently, everyone would have criticised him.
That’s how these things work, but he made the decision based on what he wanted and that has tremendous value. He considered that the change would help his team psychologically and above all tactically, giving them more chance of going through. And that’s exactly what happened.
Psychology is part of football. That’s a coach’s job and we like to make decisions. I congratulate him: above and beyond the penalty shootout which they won, I applaud his bravery and his decision to generate something which he was looking for. It can go either way, because this is a game, but he was convinced that things would turn out well for his team and they did. Well done.