Player Ratings: How players fared in Netherlands-Argentina

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The 2014 World Cup finals are set: Germany v. Argentina in what should be a clash of the highest order.

On Wednesday it was Argentina who booked their place in the finals after 120 minutes of scoreless action with the Netherlands was settled in a penalty shootout.

Both managers made changes to their teams entering the match with Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella replacing the injured Angel di Maria with Enzo Perez and swapping left-back Jose Basanta for Marcos Rojo and Dutch manager Louis van Gaal bringing on Nigel de Jong in the place of Memphis Depay.

Here’s how each player from the Netherlands-Argentina fared on a scale of 1 to 10.

ARGENTINA PLAYER RATINGS  

Sergio Romero – 9

With the exception of a few key punches, Romero had very little to do in regulation and extra time but came up huge in penalties, saving shots from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder.

Marcos Rojo – 7

After serving a suspension against Costa Rica, Rojo inserted himself beautifully into the Argentine defense, working particularly well with Martin Demichelis in shutting down Arjen Robben.

Martin Demichelis – 8

A different player on the international level, Demichelis has established a fantastic partnership with Ezequiel Garay and was rock-solid for 120 minutes.

Ezequiel Garay – 8

Nearly scored a 25th minute header and was a constant nuisance to Robin van Persie.

Pablo Zabaleta – 8 

Alongside Philip Lahm, Zabaleta has proven himself the best right-back in the world. Made a handful of fantastic sliding tackles while proving himself a nuisance overlapping on the wing.

Javier Mascherano – 9 STAR MAN

Best match of his career. Mascherano was everywhere on Wednesday, dropping into the back four to help defend and driving the midfield forward on the attack. His most impressive feat came in the first minute of injury time when his slide tackle on Robben saved a surefire goal. He then duplicated the tackle in the 96th minute. Sensational.

Lucas Biglia – 5

Despite putting in a furious shift, Biglia didn’t see much of the ball and arguably had his smallest impact of the tournament.

Enzo Perez – 6

Did decent in the place of Di Maria with a few notable overlaps and link-ups but faded throughout the match.

Ezequiel Lavezzi – 7

Strong match for Lavezzi, who found plenty of space down the right side and was arguably Argentina’s most creative attacker moving forward.

Gonzalo Higuain – 5

Got caught dropping deep to pick up balls and did well to hold up the play but stymied his side from going forward by doing. Couldn’t establish a link with Messi but did come close to scoring, putting his effort on the wrong side of the side netting. Frustrating.

Lionel Messi – 4

A shocking performance from Messi, nowhere near his standard or where he needs to be if he’s to guide his country to glory. Looked frustrated, lost dribbles and didn’t seem bothered by the fact that he wasn’t seeing enough of the ball.

Substitutes

Rodrigo Palacio – N/A

On for Perez in the 81st, Palacio was lively and came closest to scoring with a header that Jasper Cillessen did well to save.

Maxi Rodgriguez – N/A

Came on for Lavezzi with 20 minutes left and saw little of the ball but did convert the final penalty to seal Argentina’s spot in the final.

Sergio Aguero – 5

An 81st minute substitute for Higuain, Aguero was too slow dispatching the one chance he saw. Clearly still injured, he’s a shadow of his former self but did manage to convert his penalty.

NETHERLANDS PLAYER RATINGS 

Jasper Cillessen – 7

Enjoyed some confident saves and showed some nice foot-skills in regulation but could’ve done better in the shootout, missing Garay’s and Rodriguez’s efforts when he should’ve done better.

Dirk Kuyt – 7

Typical Kuyt. Nothing special but hard-working and dependable. Even dispossessed Messi a few times and took his spot kick well.

Ron Vlaar – 8

Like Mascherano, this was the best performance of Vlaar’s life. Yes, he missed his penalty but he should’ve never been shooting in the first place. During regulation and extra time, Vlaar was a beast, putting in a number of brilliant sliding tackles on Messi.

Stefan De Vrij – 7

Enjoyed a few big tackles and kept the back five tight, De Vrij has made a name for himself in this tournament.

Bruno Martins Indi – 3

A poor game from the big man, who found himself caught out of position a number of times and subbed out at half time.

Daley Blind – 6

Found it difficult containing Zabaleta, Perez and Lavezzi early on but settled in late in the match when it counted.

Georgino Wijnaldum – 5

It was a big ask for this young player, especially to play inside the park opposed to his preferred winger position. Did ok at times but too often gave the ball away needlessly in the offensive third.

Wesley Sneijder – 6

An inconsistent match from Sneijder, who looked dangerous at times and lost at others. A disappointing end to a great World Cup.

Nigel De Jong – 7

Despite returning from injury De Jong put in a typical yeoman-like shift for Van Gaal, leaving it all on the pitch. It’s never pretty but it’s so effective.

Arjen Robben – 6

Quiet and subdued early on but found a way through in the 91st and 96th minutes only to see his shot blocked by Mascherano. Looked lively and likely to score in extra time when everyone else’s tongue was wagging. Spot kick was well taken sealed a fantastic cup for Robben.

Robin Van Persie – 4

Brutal match for Van Persie. Clearly affected by the flu he’s had over the last few days, the striker wasn’t helped out by Van Gaal’s setup that required him to drop deep to pick up balls in the midfield. Arguably shouldn’t have started.

Substitutes

Daryl Janmaat – 6

In for Martins Indi at halftime, Janmaat was unspectacular but solid in disrupting the link between Messi and Higuain/Aguero.

Jordy Claise – 8

Brilliant in possession coming on for De Jong. Settled the midfield and had the Dutch playing their best football. An orchestrator for the future.

Klaas Jan Huntelaar – N/A

Barely touched the ball after coming on in the 96th minute.

World Cup referees miss yet another physical penalty in box

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Let’s get this out of the way first: VAR (Video-Assistant Refereeing) has been a fabulous addition to the game of soccer. In the 2018 World Cup, the availability of replay has done nothing but improve the ability of referees to correctly officiate the game, providing an outlet for mistakes to be corrected. Earlier on Friday, a referee gave a penalty to Brazil for a foul on Neymar, but with VAR applied correctly, the penalty was wiped off after it was determined Neymar went down easily. The game continued as it should, and a clear and obvious error was erased.

Unfortunately, despite the clear improvement to the game VAR provides, there’s still some work to be done in one very specific area of the game.

[ MORE: Recap of Serbia 1-2 Switzerland ]

On multiple occasions this World Cup, referees have missed wrestling matches in the penalty area, allowing defenders to essentially get away with murder instead of awarding attackers a deserved penalty. The worst example of this yet took place in the 66th minute of the 1-1 draw between Serbia and Switzerland in Kaliningrad.

Aleksandar Mitrovic, already with a goal to his name early in the match, went up to meet a set-piece delivery with his head. He was fully bear-hugged by Switzerland captain Steven Lichtsteiner, and while being wrapped up, was then rugby tackled by Swiss central defender Fabian Schar.

Yet somehow, Mitrovic was called for the foul, as the referee whistled him for ending up over the back of his defender on a genuine attempt to play the ball.

With every replay shown, it became more and more evident that not only should a penalty have been awarded, but the referee missed a clear and obvious call. Yet the match referee, German Felix Brych, was given no assistance from the VAR booth, left on an island after blowing the call.

There have been so many instances of this throughout the tournament, despite a public directive reportedly given by FIFA to referees asking them to crack down on physical play in the box, according to Fox rules analyst Dr. Joe Machnik. England striker Harry Kane was wrestled to the ground numerous times against Tunisia with no call, while many Egypt fans felt hard done by after Mohamed Salah was bullied in the box repeatedly against Russia.

The more defenders can get away with while defending set pieces in front of net, the more the game will be muddied by controversy, clouding an otherwise glittering debut for VAR on the international stage. That’s frustrating.

Serbia 1-2 Switzerland: Late Shaqiri break shatters Serbian hearts

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One of the most exciting games of the 2018 World Cup proved entertaining from start to finish, ended by a stunning breakaway goal by Xherdan Shaqiri that capped a 2-1 Switzerland comeback victory over Serbia.

The start of the game was all Serbia, with Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic the most dangerous option up front, and he delivered on that promise just five minutes in. After a pair of chances just kept out by Yann Sommer, Mitrovic powered in a header off a Dusan Tadic cross to put Serbia in front early on.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The goal confirmed yet another game without a 0-0 draw, 26 in a row to start the tournament, marking the World Cup record set back in 1954 when every single game in the Switzerland event featured a goal.

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After the goal, the game exploded, with Serbia looking to double its lead and Switzerland hoping to gain a grip on the match. Without a second coming, Switzlerland began to build promisingly, and had its first chance right on the half-hour mark as Steven Zuber through-ball sprung Blerim Dzemaili, but his sliding effort was saved brilliantly by Vladimir Stojkovic at the last second. They had a second chance minutes later, but for some reason Xherdan Shaqiri decided for one too many crosses rather than taking the open shot himself.

Serbia didn’t just look to see out the first half, though, as the star of the first half Dusan Tadic nearly gave his team another lift. First, he delivered a fabulous corner that stunningly skipped through the box untouched. Then, just before the break, Tadic came agonizingly close to what would have been a fabulous half-volley strike that flew viciously wide.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

After the break, the back-and-forth action continued, and Granit Xhaka struck an absolute stunner on the counter to level the match seven minutes into the second half. Shaquiri’s initial attempt from the right edge of the box was blocked and the rebound fell to the Arsenal midfielder outside the penalty area. His follow-up was a laser, curling through the defense and past a wrong-footed Stojkovic.

The chaos continued, with Serbia swinging back into the initiative. Mitrovic had a penalty shout turned down after being bear-hugged and wrestled to the ground by a pair of defenders, and minutes later Aleksandr Kolarov delivered a luscious cross into the box but nobody was there to tap it home.

Serbia began to tire as the game inched towards the final minutes, and Switzerland had most of the late pressure. One moment of brilliance caught the Serbians sleeping, and it proved the difference. Mario Gavranovic fed Shaqiri on the break from his own half, and free on goal the Stoke City winger made no mistake as the last ticks of regulation came off.

The win for Switzerland moves them to four points through the first two matches, leaving them level atop Group E with Brazil on points but in second thanks to an inferior goal differential. Serbia, meanwhile, sits third with three points. Switzerland would advance to the knockout stage with a win or draw in their final match against Costa Rica, while the winner of Brazil vs. Serbia will advance as well, with Brazil advancing in the event of a draw.

Southgate asks media to “help the team” after lineup leak

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England management is unhappy with the media after a coach was snapped with the proposed lineup for Saturday’s match against Panama.

Assistant manager Steve Holland was photographed holding a teamsheet that appeared to show a pair of changes in the England attack, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek replacing Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford partnering with Harry Kane up front. While Southgate attempted to play down the leak, stating the piece of paper was “just a squad list” and “the next sheet has different players in different positions,” he was also clearly frustrated with the media’s decision to run the photos.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“Obviously any time, if we were to give the opposition the opportunity of having our team it’s a disadvantage to us,” Southgate said in his pre-match press conference. “So of course our media has to decide whether they want to help the team or not.

The teamsheet showed no changes to the defense, with the team playing a three-center-back system as Kyle Walker continues his role along that back line. Kieran Trippier stays in at wing-back opposite Ashley Young, with Jordan Henderson sitting in the midfield between them. Jesse Lingard retains his place in the attack centrally with help from the addition of Loftus-Cheek, and the pair of strikers ahead of them.

Walker was also asked about the leak, and he said Holland apologized to the team, even if they felt it was unnecessary. “He’s apologised to us all in training, which we had a bit of banter with him about, and that was it.”

“I think if you guys try to keep it to yourself and don’t bring it out to the world,” Walker added, “because it’s not going to help us come the later stages of the tournament, please God we get there. All the rest of the world’s seen our team now, if that is the team or if not. As I say, you guys have to do your little bit, so if you could just please help us with that it would be polite.”

Liverpool to lose $82m Alisson to Real; Klopp turns to Lazio GK?

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Brazilian national team starter and Liverpool transfer target Alisson looks increasingly likely to only see Anfield as a visitor.

Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport says Real Madrid is going to tempt Roma with an $82 million bid that could rise with add-ons.

[ MORE: Lozano to Barcelona? ]

And Real would also offer a near $6 million annual salary to the Brazilian backstop.

It’s coincidence that this news comes on the day that both Alisson and current Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas were at opposite ends of the pitch.

Alisson had little to do, while Costa Rican backstop Navas was outstanding until Philippe Coutinho and Neymar scored during stoppage time.

Meanwhile, TalkSport says the Reds are in on a different Serie A goalkeeper: Lazio’s Albanian backstop Thomas Strakosha.

The 23-year-old old played all 38 league games for the Roman club this season.