The shock of Tuesday night’s humiliation for Brazil shouldn’t weigh too heavily on the minds of the Dutch and Argentinian keepers in Wednesday’s second semifinal in Sao Paulo, says veteran USA keeper Brad Friedel.
For Holland’s Cillessen, who already has to overcome the apparent sleight at having been substituted before Holland’s shootout win against Costa Rica, there is the added worry of facing one Lionel Messi, the world’s finest player in most people’s books.
But Friedel, a Sony Team Ambassador for the World Cup in Brazil, said: “I wouldn’t put too much focus on how you’re going to stop him, because as a goalkeeper one of the things you have to do is be reactionary.
“What I would try to do is set up the team so that when Messi picks up the ball on my left, we try to keep him from the post outward, or I’d try to get him on his right foot if I could. If he does cut in you have to know as a keeper that he loves to bend the ball around you to your right, but if you cheat he’s skilful enough to beat you to your left.
“But one of the reason’s he’s the best in the world is that every team tries to do that and he still manages to beat them. The Dutch are going to be up against it, but they’ll have to try and do something to stop him if they want to make the final.”
And what about the pressure of the big occasion, when the winners face the all-conquering Germans in Sunday’s final? “I think first and foremost you have to take the element of the occasion away and make sure the goalkeeper knows it’s still a game and it should be fun,” Friedel said.
“Getting into tactics you have to make sure that your central defenders and your holding midfielders stay connected, and your outside backs as well. It’s been proven in this World Cup that you can attack Germany if you stay solid on defence. The Germans are not invincible if you stay organized, and a goalkeeper can play a big part in that.”
First, though, comes the semifinal between two teams most find difficult to separate. “There is a doubt about Van Persie playing tonight,” said Friedel. “I haven’t read anything more on his fitness, but I actually think it’s more Arjen Robben vs Messi.
“I think most of the attacks and energy comes from Robben. Argentina tend to play the same way in their games, whereas the Dutch have set up in different formations in this tournament.
“I don’t know if this will lead to an open game, but I do think we’ll see a lot of creativity in the attacking third. I think it’s a very intriguing matchup but I do think it’s more about Robben vs Messi than it is about Van Persie.”