09 July 2014 | News Comments

Van Gaal to make late call on Van Persie

Louis van Gaal will make a late call on whether to start with Robin van Persie, who is a major doubt for the Netherlands's World Cup semi-final against Argentina because of an upset stomach.

Van Persie trained separately from his team-mates on the eve of the match in Sao Paulo after complaining that he felt unwell.

"He has a stomach problem, an intestinal problem. I don't know (if he will play)," Dutch coach Van Gaal told a press conference.

"I will decide (today). Van Persie is our captain so he is very important to us.

"In principle my captain always plays, but he has to be fit."

Should Van Persie be ruled out, it would be a massive blow for the Dutch.

Van Gaal was given at least one bit of good news when midfielder Nigel De Jong took part in training.

De Jong tore a groin muscle in the match against Mexico, but the former Manchester City man trained with his team-mates at the Arena Corinthians and could feature.

"If his reaction is good and he can play, then the miracle can come true," Van Gaal said.

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella will also be without a key man in Angel Di Maria, who has been ruled out with a thigh injury.

But Sergio Aguero looks set to return to the starting XI to ease the burden on Lionel Messi's shoulders.

If Messi was feeling any nerves on the eve of the semi-final in Sao Paulo then he was not showing it.

"I am feeling positive pressure," Messi said.

"It's a great honour to be captain of Argentina. I want to pay back the trust given in me leading Argentina to the World Cup."

Messi's trophy cabinet is packed full of accolades, but there is still one thing missing - a World Cup winner's medal.

The Barcelona star, who has scored four goals in Brazil this summer, admits it would be a dream come true to reach the Maracana final on Sunday.

"As a player winning a World Cup is the best there is," the Argentina captain said.

"It's something you dream about when you are a kid and it never disappears.

"I have asked my Barcelona team-mates Xavi, (Andres) Iniesta and (Gerard) Pique what it is like to lift the trophy, and they couldn't explain it.

"We will do everything to make this dream a reality.

"To play a World Cup final with the great atmosphere of the Maracana is something that every player dreams of, but first we have to make sure we get there."

Lionel Messi

The Netherlands v Argentina Facts

Stadium: The Corinthians Arena, Sao Paulo
Capacity: 62,601
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir

Probable teams:

Netherlands: Cillessen; Martins Indi, De Vrij, Vlaar, Blind; Kuyt, Wijnaldum, Depay; Sneijder, Robben, Van Persie.

Argentina: Romero; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Garay, Rojo; Mascherano, Biglia, Perez; Lavezzi, Higuain, Messi.

Key stats:

- While Argentina have won the World Cup twice (1978, 1986), the Dutch are perennial underachievers in the tournament having reached three finals but coming away empty-handed each time (1974, 1978, 2010).

- The teams met in the controversial 1978 final, which kicked off late after hosts Argentina objected to a plaster cast on the forearm of Dutch player Rene van de Kerkhof. Argentina won the final 3-1 after extra time.

- There have been four previous meetings at the World Cup between the sides - the Netherlands winning two, Argentina one - in the '78 final - and one draw.

1978 World Cup final

- The Netherlands, with 12 goals, are joint top scorers in the 2014 tournament with Colombia, who have already been eliminated.

- Messi has scored four of Argentina's eight goals, while Dutch forwards Robben and Van Persie have each notched three.

- With their 1-0 quarter-final win over Belgium, Argentina equalled their longest World Cup winning streak of five games. All five victories have been by one-goal margins.

Previous meetings:

The teams have played each other eight times overall, with the Netherlands winning four, Argentina one and three draws.

World Cup meetings:
1974 Second round: Netherlands 4 Argentina 0
1978 Final: Argentina 3 Netherlands 1
1998 Quarter-finals: Netherlands 2 Argentina 1
2006 Group stage: Argentina 0 Netherlands 0

Dennis Bergkamp scores the winner in 1998

Results so far at the 2014 World Cup:
Netherlands: Opened their campaign with a 5-1 mauling of defending champions Spain before beating Australia 3-2 and Chile 2-0 to top Group B. They staged an astonishing fightback to beat Mexico 2-1 in the last 16, equalising with two minutes left on the clock before getting the winner via the penalty spot in stoppage time. Despite dominating Costa Rica in Saturday's quarter-final, the Netherlands needed a penalty shootout to secure a place in the semi-finals.

Argentina: Laboured to a 2-1 win over Bosnia in their opening game, scraped a 1-0 win over Iran in stoppage time and beat Nigeria 3-2 to finish top of Group F. Needed an extra-time goal in their last 16 match to beat Switzerland 1-0, then wrapped up their quarter-final against Belgium by the same scoreline.

Head-to-head statistics at this tournament:
Goals scored: Netherlands 12, Argentina 8
Fouls committed: Netherlands 91, Argentina 54
Yellow cards: Netherlands 7, Argentina 5
Red cards: Netherlands 0, Argentina 0

Team stats:
Distance run per match: Netherlands 114.8km, Argentina 109.6km
Passes completed: Netherlands 2,031, Argentina 2,438
Pass completion rate: Netherlands 80%, Argentina 80%

Penalty shootout record:
- In their two World Cup shootouts, the Netherlands lost in the semi-finals of the 1998 tournament to Brazil, and beat Costa Rica in the 2014 quarter-finals.

- Argentina survived two shootouts in 1990, beating Yugoslavia and Italy in the quarter- and semi-finals. They won another in 1998 when they eliminated England in the second round, and suffered their first defeat in the 2006 quarter-finals to Germany.