And then there were three. Following yesterday's complete, dominating win by Germany over Brazil, we now know the identity of one of the two teams that will square off for world football's biggest prize. All that is left to decide is who will face Die Mannschaft in the final on Sunday. With Brazil's humiliation complete, it now suddenly looks to be Germany's tournament to lose, but both the Dutch and Argentinians will have something to say about that.
Today, the second semi-final will feature two of football's most colorful - literally - sides, with the Oranje of the Netherlands taking on La Albiceleste of Argentina. It's a clash of iconic uniforms, with both teams looking to book a date with Germany to try to throw a wrench into the march toward a German World Cup victory. While both the Brazilians and Germans came into their semi-final with a single blemish on their World Cup records (each coming up with one draw in the group stage), both the Argentinians and Dutch come into today's game with nothing but wins in every World Cup match they've played this year. For the men of Oranje, they started out strong, smashing the defending champions Spain in a 5-1 demolition that featured one of the best taken goals of the entire tournament. Since then, the Dutch have done just enough to win, often in unspectacular fashion, and often very late in the match. But soon-to-be Manchester United head coach Louis van Gaal has his countrymen just one win away from returning to the title match after making one of the most discussed - and risky - substitutions in the tournament, bringing in reserve goalkeeper Tim Krul for the penalty kick shootout against Costa Rica in the quarterfinal. With captain and talisman striker Robin van Persie questionable, the Dutch will have to rely on Bayern Munich winger (and villain to El Tri) Arjen Robben and Galatasaray playmaker Wesley Sneijder to drive them forward offensively. So far, every van Gaal decision has paid out - will this match be where his luck runs out? Or will Oranje find a way to the final to take on their neighbors and heated rivals?
For La Albiceleste, everything runs through the Messi-iah. The only team left from South America, the Argentinians are looking to ride the home-field advantage to a crown, but as we saw yesterday, it seems that perhaps European sides have finally found the way to win outside of Europe. Until the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, no European side had ever won the World Cup if it was hosted outside of Europe. After Spain became the first to win on non-European soil, can the Dutch or Germans become the first European team to win in the Western Hemisphere? So far, every time the World Cup has been hosted in South America, a South American side has won it all - will Argentina keep that streak alive? They bring a depleted squad that has become even more reliant on Messi than normal due to nagging injuries to Manchester City's Sergio Aguero and Real Madrid's Angel di Maria. While the Germans had no obvious holes in their line-up, La Albiceleste (like their Oranje counterparts) have been suspect on defense.
The game will kick off at 1 p.m. PST on ESPN in Sao Paulo. We'll get two of the most colorful - literally - teams in the world taking each other on, both hoping to set up a date with the German machine in the final on Sunday. Both squads boast a wealth of attacking riches (for the Dutch - Robben, Sneijder, van Persie, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Memphis Depay, and Dirk Kuyt; for the Argentinians - Messi, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Gonzalo Higuain, Aguero, and di Maria) but feature aging and less-than-elite defenses. On paper, it makes for a game with plenty of goals and wide open scoring.
Turning to our boys in Red, White, and Blue, they are out of the tournament, but the road to the World Cup in 2018 begins now, plus we have the CONCACAF Gold Cup to prepare for next summer, followed by us hosting the 100th edition of the Copa America during the summer of 2016. So, if you came out for the Yanks for the World Cup, stick around for a while - it won't be much longer before our boys are back and fighting for trophies for the Stars and Stripes.
Alright folks, it's time to tune in and see who will take one more step closer to lifting the world's most coveted team trophy. This is your second semi-final World Cup open thread, so fire away with your thoughts, analysis, and opinions as you tune in today to watch La Albiceleste versus Oranje.