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October 21, 2014
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Mascherano: ‘We want to play the final at the Maracanã’

Javier Mascherano speaks during the news conference.

BELO HORIZONTE — Defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano showed himself confident of reaching the World Cup final after the team’s performance and the qualification to the semifinals.

“We want to play the final next July 13 at the Maracanã,” said the Barcelona player in a press conference in Cidade do Galo, Belo Horizonte.

Mascherano, the Argentine player with most World Cup caps (14), added: “I hope everything finishes on July 13 and in the best way for us.”

“The group as a whole is very happy, except for the situation with Ángel, which is a great shame,” the midfielder said. “We hope he recovers soon.”

Mascherano said Argentina’s improved performance against Belgium was due to a more intelligent approach, which they had to repeat against the skilful Dutch.

“Against Belgium, we used the spaces better. We didn’t rush. We waited for the right moment to pass,” he said. “It was a lovely game but it was yesterday (Saturday). Now we’re focused on Holland. We know they are still smarting from defeat (in the final) in South Africa four years ago. We’ve come far, Argentines have waited 24 years for this, but we want to go further.”

Defender José Basanta said he had been dreaming all his career of playing in the World Cup.

“I’m so happy. Argentina is making history, but we’ve not won anything yet,” he added.

Mascherano was part of the national team when it was eliminated from the World Cups in 2006 and 2010. Both times were in quarterfinals and against Germany. This year, Argentina could face Germany in the final or in the third-place playoff.

During the matches, especially against Switzerland and Belgium, the former River Plate player was one of the key players of the team. He had an outstanding performance in the round-of-16 in Argentina’s 1-0 win over Switzerland and was very solid playing with Lucas Biglia in the midfield in the 1-0 victory against Belgium.

In their four World Cup meetings, Argentina and the Netherlands have produced some unforgettable soccer, leaving Lionel Messi and Robin van Persie with plenty to live up to.

Dennis Bergkamp’s sublime winning goal in the 1998 quarterfinal is the standout individual moment and widely considered one of the most skillful finishes in a World Cup game.

The Netherlands’ performance in its first meeting in West Germany in 1974 is viewed by some as the peak of collective skill. Led by two goals from Johan Cruyff, they dazzled with their passing and movement in a famous 4-0 win.

Four years later, the pair met in the World Cup final with host Argentina triumphing 3-1 in extra time.

The most recent encounter will be more easily forgotten. Eight years ago the pair played out a goalless draw in the final game of the group stage at the 2006 finals in Germany, having both already secured their place in the next round.

Herald staff with agencies

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