With Germany and Brazil confirmed for the first semi-final match, Argentina and Belgium fight each other for the third spot in the semi-finals. Both Argentina and Belgium, are two of the four teams that have have won all of their four World Cup matches prior to the quarter-final clash, making it the most anticipated match of this round.
Argentina had a decent group stage as they defeated Bosnia 2-1, Iran 1-0 and Nigeria 3-2. In their Round-of-16 match against Switzerland, Argentina had a tough time as the Swiss were Argentina goal scoring opportunities through-out the match. But Argentina refused to give up as they finally broke the Swiss resistance in the 118th minute as winger Ángel di María capitalized on Lionel Messi's match winning pass. With just two minutes away from World Cup exit, Switzerland failed to find an equalizer and were crashed out of the tournament. Sergio Aguero will miss this match due to injury, whereas Marcos Rojo is suspended after picking up a yellow card against Switzerland.
Belgium had a modest group stage, as they defeated Algeria, Russia and Korea Republic. Surprisingly, despite wining all their group matches, they failed to score a single goal in the first half of every match they played. Even in their Round-of-16 victory over USA, both the winning goals scored by Kevin De Bryune and Romelu Luakalu came in the first half of extra-time. This World Cup, Belgium have fired 81 shots in four matches, with 55 shots on target, making them one of the best team in the World cup in terms of attacking. Vincent Kompany is fit and likely to feature himself in the starting XI. Mousa Dembele's is unlikely to play due to a thigh injury.
Players To Watch Out For:
1) Romelu Lukaku: The 21-year old overcame his poor group stage performance with a goal against USA in the Round-of-16. Lukaku may seek positivity from his goal, which may inspire Belgium to record a victory over Argentina.
2) Lionel Messi:
He is playing a captain's role this tournament. After having four goals to his name, he is Argentina's top goal-scorer this tournament. He also provided the assist for Angel di Maria's goal, which won them the Round-of-16 match against Switzerland.
3) Angel di Maria: With Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gonzalo Higuain in poor form, Di Maria is the only one that can support Messi in attacking. He scored the all important goal against Switzerland in the Round-of-16, which booked Argentina's quarter final spot. Di Maria is likely to shine against Belgium.
He is yet to show his best this World Cup. Despite Hazard's poor form, Belgium have reached the quarter-final round. If Hazard finds his top form, it will be an added advantage for the Belgians.
Here are some of the stats related to this match (optasports.com):
• Argentina have won three of their four encounters with Belgium, scoring 10 goals and conceding four.
• In the World Cup, they have one win each: Belgium were victors in the group stages of the 1982 edition (1-0) while Argentina won 2-0 in the semi-finals four years later thanks to a Diego Maradona brace. That was their last encounter.
• Since the start of the 2010 World Cup, Argentina have won eight of their nine games in the competition, their only defeat coming in the quarter finals of the 2010 edition against Germany (0-4).
• Argentina have won six of their last 19 World Cup games against European sides at the World Cup.
• It’s the third time in a row that Argentina have reached the quarter finals of the World Cup. However, the Albiceleste have never gone further than the quarter finals since they reached the final in 1990.
• Argentina haven’t won any of their last four World Cup quarter finals outright, going through on penalties against Yugoslavia in 1990 and being eliminated in 1998 (1-2 v Netherlands), 2006 (on penalties v Germany) and 2010 (0-4 v Germany).
• Belgium have reached the quarter finals of the World Cup for only the second time in their history after 1986. They eventually finished fourth.
• Argentina have been victorious (via penalties or winning AET) in six of their seven World Cup games that have gone to extra-time.
• Argentina and Belgium are two of three teams to have won all their games at the 2014 World Cup (extra-time included), with Holland. All four of Argentina and Belgium’s wins have been by a one goal difference.
• Belgium’s six goals in this World Cup have all been scored from the 70th minute onwards. Also, four of their six goals have been scored by substitutes.
• Belgium have only been ahead for 52 minutes in their four World Cup games so far in 2014, less than any of the seven other teams in the quarter finals.
• Belgium and Argentina have had the most shots in this World Cup (83 and 80 respectively). Marc Wilmots’ men have also had the most attempts on target (32).
• Argentina have averaged 64.3 per cent of possession in this World Cup, the highest ratio of the tournament.
• Lionel Messi has scored (4) or assisted (1) five of Argentina’s seven goals at this World Cup. Three of his four goals have been scored from outside the box.
• Messi is the player who has completed the most dribbles at this World Cup (24) and created the most chances for his team-mates (18).
• In the last 16 game against Switzerland, Angel di Maria attempted 12 shots, the most ever in a World Cup match by an Argentinian player (1966-2014). He also scored the only goal of the game.
• Javier Mascherano has won more tackles than any other player at this World Cup (18 out of 22 attempted).
• Kevin De Bruyne delivered the final ball for a Belgian shot 10 times against the USA, more than any other player in a game at this World Cup. He was also involved in both Belgian goals, scoring the first and assisting the second.