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Argentina-Dutch Semi-Final Preview

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The machine that is Lionel Messi faces its biggest challenge so far in the World Cup as Argentina tackles the dangerous Netherlands in a semifinal that will surely have far-reaching effects.

Messi, who is tied for the goal-scoring lead among players still playing in this high-scoring World Cup, will run straight into yet another great offensive player, the Dutch superstar Arjen Robben.  Robben has scored three times. Messi has four goals, the same as Thomas Muller of Germany, another semifinalist. James Rodriguez of Colombia is the World Cup’s leading goal-scorer with six, but Colombia lost in the quarterfinals. Neymar of Brazil has five goals, but he is out of the World Cup because of a fractured vertebra.

Meanwhile, Argentina has its own injury problems. Angel Di Maria, who is an offensive complement to Messi, has been ruled out of the Netherlands game after he injured his hamstring in a 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Belgium. Gonzalo Higuain scored the only goal, so he may be asked to take some of the offensive pressure off of Messi, who needs some open space to work his magic.

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