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Argentina take on Belgium in quarter-final clash at Estadio Nacional

Saturday, July 05, 2014 by Sky Sport


Lionel Messi and Vincent Kompany: Go head to head in the World Cup quarter-finals

History will be on Argentina's side when they take on Belgium for a place in the World Cup semi-finals on Saturday.

Argentina have won three of their four encounters with Belgium, scoring 10 goals and conceding four.

But Belgium defender Vincent Kompany insists they have a good chance of overcoming their quarter-final opponents and reaching the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in 28 years.

The Manchester City centre-back believes the reason Belgium had failed to show their true colours in the group stage - where they beat Russia, Algeria and South Korea - was that their opponents had played it tight.

The USA, however, played a much more open game in their round of 16 game in Salvador when Belgium had 39 shots as they secured their progression to the last eight with two goals in extra time.

Kompany said: "If Argentina decide to play their usual attacking game, we'll have a pretty good chance against them.

"You need two teams to produce an exciting match. The Americans tried to push forward. That's all we were asking for. It takes two to tango, and they wanted the same thing as us."

Argentina's hopes rest firmly on the shoulders of star striker Lionel Messi, who has scored four of Argentina's seven goals in Brazil so far - with three of them coming from outside the box.

Eden Hazard says the key to beating Argentina is to stop Messi - and says Belgium will work on a plan to try and combat the Barcelona forward.

"We know the best player in the world is in this team, but we are not afraid," said the Chelsea playmaker. "We can win. Argentina have done well, but they have one big player who can make the difference every game. If we can stop him, we have a chance, but it will not be easy.

"For me, he is the best in the world. I don’t know how we can stop him, but we will watch videos and we will try to win.

"They have Angel di Maria as well, but Messi is the difference. I haven’t played against him before and I will think about it the night before.

"It's a big game, maybe the biggest game in my life, and I hope to continue in the World Cup."

Argentina have won six of their last 19 World Cup games against European sides at the World Cup and it’s the third time in a row that they have reached the quarter-finals. However, the Albiceleste have never gone further than the quarter-finals since they reached the final in 1990.

Argentina and Belgium are two of four teams to have won all their games at the 2014 World Cup (extra-time included), with Colombia and the Netherlands. All four of Argentina and Belgium’s wins have been by a single goal margin.

On the team news front, Argentina left-back Marcos Rojo serves a one-game ban, with Jose Basanta expected to deputise for him.

Sergio Aguero has returned to light training following a thigh problem but is unlikely to start, while Rodrigo Palacio could replace Ezequiel Lavezzi.

Belgium welcome back midfielder Steven Defour, who has completed a one-game suspension following his red card against South Korea, while Thomas Vermaelen should be available after a hamstring problem.

Paul Merson's prediction:

I don’t actually think this game will be as close as the others. I think we finally saw Argentina in the last 25 minutes of extra-time against Switzerland. It took them a while, but in the last 20 minutes they really started to turn the screw and dictate the game with Angel Di Maria growing in confidence in his game.

In contrast, I’m not sure about Belgium. People in our country think they’re good because a lot of them play in the Premier League and we know the players, but I don’t think so. Their game against America was a great one with two teams going hammer and tong and creating chances left, right and centre – but let’s not get carried away. They were playing the USA. Romelu Lukaku looked dangerous when he came on, but it’s a lot easier when you’re coming on as a substitute when everyone else is tired and you’ve got legs. I don’t read much into that.

I’ve fancied Argentina all along to win this tournament and I just think they are starting to click now. Lionel Messi, Di Maria and the rest could run riot.

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