Sony Coaching Ambassador Diego Simeone believes it is vital Argentina learn from Brazil’s exit and overcome Holland in the second World Cup semi-final in Sao Paulo.
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.
They looked much more balanced against Belgium in the last 16 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.
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 Lionel 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 fine 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.
Farewell to Di Stefano
Don Alfredo, one of the greats of world football, has left us. Farewell maestro, I hope you’ll always have a ball to kick up there in heaven.
Di Stefano defined a hugely important era in Argentine football, both as a player and a coach. What he achieved with Real Madrid was wonderful and even though he lived in Spain for so many years, he never lost his Argentine essence.