In yesterday’s penalty kick shootout victory over Costa Rica, Netherlands star striker Robin Van Persie was held in check and failed to find the back of the net in 120 minutes of action.
Ironically, so were the celebrated scorers from the three other high powered teams whose recent victories enabled their countries to also advance to the 2014 World Cup Semi-finals.
Neither Thomas Muller of Germany, Lionel Messi of Argentina nor Neymar of Brazil were able to score in their sides’ respective wins. Like Van Persie of Holland, Muller, Messi and Neymar were heavily marked by multiple defenders during their entire matches.
Despite these four brilliant footballers being blanketed and held in check, four of international football’s royalty (Germany, Brazil, Argentina and the Netherlands) will square off next week to determine the 2014 champion.
Each country deserves its spot in the final four because of the overall strength and depth of their squads. It was extremely evident in yesterday’s Netherlands versus Costa Rica match. Though the Central Americans stifled Van Persie’s every move, Holland’s Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder seemed to run freely in all areas of the pitch.
The Costa Ricans’ emphasis on marking Van Persie opened countless opportunities for Robben, Sneijder and other Dutch players even though they were unable to convert them into scores.
Though he did not find the back of the net in yesterday’s overtime win, Van Persie’s presence was clearly felt.
The same could be said for that of Muller’s, Messi’s and the injured Neymar’s as their teams advanced without them scoring. All three positively impacted the matches for their teams.
However, with the tournament’s biggest games set for later this week, expect three of the sport’s most prolific scorers, Van Persie, Muller and Messi, to find a way to score in spite of two or three defenders shadowing every move they make on the pitch.
These supremely gifted soccer stars seem to shine their brightest when performing on the biggest stage.
MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!