Featured Matches
Previous
Aston Villa
Newcastle United
11:45 AM GMT
Game Details
Chelsea
Leicester City
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Everton
Arsenal
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Sevilla FC
Valencia
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Borussia Dortmund
Bayer Leverkusen
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Guingamp
Marseille
3:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Ipswich Town
Norwich City
11:15 AM GMT
Game Details
Aston Villa
Newcastle United
11:45 AM GMT
Game Details
Chelsea
Leicester City
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Crystal Palace
West Ham United
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Southampton
West Bromwich Albion
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Swansea City
Burnley
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Everton
Arsenal
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
New York Red Bulls
Montreal Impact
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Toronto FC
Chicago Fire
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Columbus Crew
Houston Dynamo
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
New England Revolution
Chivas USA
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Sporting Kansas City
DC United
12:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Los Angeles Galaxy
Vancouver Whitecaps
2:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Malaga
Athletic Bilbao
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Granada
Deportivo La Coruña
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Sevilla FC
Valencia
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Almeria
Espanyol
9:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Eintracht Frankfurt
SC Freiburg
1:30 PM GMT
Game Details
FC Cologne
Hamburg SV
1:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Hannover 96
Schalke 04
1:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Hertha Berlin
Werder Bremen
1:30 PM GMT
Game Details
TSG Hoffenheim
FC Augsburg
1:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Borussia Dortmund
Bayer Leverkusen
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Atalanta
Pisa
4:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Varese
Virtus Entella
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Palermo
Modena
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Perugia
Spezia
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Bari
US Avellino
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Cagliari
Catania
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Guingamp
Marseille
3:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Bastia
Toulouse
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Lille
Lorient
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Montpellier
Metz
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Nice
Bordeaux
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Stade de Reims
Caen
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Willem II Tilburg
AZ Alkmaar
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Heerenveen
Excelsior
5:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Go Ahead Eagles
Dordrecht '90
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Cruz Azul
Queretaro
10:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Veracruz
Guadalajara
10:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Monterrey
Puebla
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Pachuca
Atlas
1:06 AM GMT
Game Details
Chiapas
America
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Maritimo
Academica de Coimbra
4:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Paços de Ferreira
FC Porto
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Sporting Lisbon
Arouca
7:30 PM GMT
Game Details
FC Ufa
Spartak Moscow
10:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Zenit St Petersburg
FK Amkar Perm
1:00 PM GMT
Game Details
FK Rubin Kazan
CSKA Moscow
4:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Celtic
11:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Dundee United
Ross County
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Kilmarnock
Motherwell
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Partick Thistle
Hamilton Academical
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
St Johnstone
Aberdeen
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
St Mirren
Dundee
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Kerkyra
Panthrakikos
4:15 PM GMT
Game Details
OFI Crete
Panetolikos
4:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Olympiakos
Niki Volos
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Ipswich Town
Norwich City
11:15 AM GMT
Game Details
Blackburn Rovers
AFC Bournemouth
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Brentford
Birmingham City
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Brighton & Hove Albion
Bolton Wanderers
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Derby County
Fulham
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Huddersfield Town
Charlton Athletic
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Middlesbrough
Sheffield Wednesday
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Millwall
Rotherham United
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Nottingham Forest
Reading
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Watford
Leeds United
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Wigan Athletic
Blackpool
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Wolverhampton Wanderers
Cardiff City
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Gimnasia La Plata
Rosario Central
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Newell's Old Boys
Belgrano de Córdoba
8:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Independiente
Vélez Sarsfield
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Atlético MG
Internacional
9:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Botafogo
Chapecoense AF
9:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Palmeiras
Coritiba FBC
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Standard Liege
KVC Westerlo
4:00 PM GMT
Game Details
KV Kortrijk
KV Oostende
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Lierse SK
Royal Charleroi SC
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Zulte-Waregem
Mouscron-Peruwelz
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Barnsley
Gillingham
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Bradford City
Peterborough United
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Colchester United
Doncaster Rovers
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Fleetwood Town
Chesterfield
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Leyton Orient
Walsall
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Milton Keynes Dons
Coventry City
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Port Vale
Notts County
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Preston North End
Oldham Athletic
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Rochdale
Bristol City
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Sheffield United
Crawley Town
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Swindon Town
Crewe Alexandra
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Yeovil Town
Scunthorpe United
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Accrington Stanley
Luton Town
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
AFC Wimbledon
Hartlepool United
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Bury
Plymouth Argyle
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Cambridge United
Morecambe
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Carlisle United
Southend United
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Dagenham & Redbridge
Mansfield Town
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Exeter City
York City
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Newport County
Burton Albion
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Northampton Town
Shrewsbury Town
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Oxford United
Portsmouth
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Stevenage
Wycombe Wanderers
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Tranmere Rovers
Cheltenham Town
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Alfreton Town
Wrexham
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Bristol Rovers
AFC Telford United
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Chester City
Halifax
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Dartford
Torquay United
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Dover
Eastleigh
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Gateshead
Grimsby Town
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Lincoln City
Braintree Town
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Macclesfield Town
Kidderminster Harriers
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Nuneaton Town
Barnet
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Southport
Altrincham
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Welling
Woking
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Edinburgh Univ
Hurlford Utd
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Hawick Royal Albert
Newton Stewart
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Cowdenbeath
Alloa Athletic
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Hibernian
Falkirk
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Queen of the South
Livingston
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Raith Rovers
Heart of Midlothian
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Rangers
Dumbarton
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Ayr United
Forfar Athletic
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Dunfermline Athletic
Airdrie United
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Peterhead
Greenock Morton
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Stenhousemuir
Stirling Albion
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Stranraer
Brechin City
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Albion Rovers
East Fife
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Berwick Rangers
East Stirlingshire
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Elgin City
Clyde
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Montrose
Annan Athletic
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Queen's Park
Arbroath
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Osasuna
Barcelona B
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Real Valladolid
Mallorca
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Recreativo Huelva
Real Zaragoza
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Las Palmas
Llagostera
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Numancia
Sporting Gijon
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Fortuna Düsseldorf
Karlsruhe
11:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Nurnberg
FSV Frankfurt
11:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Dijon FCO
AJ Auxerre
12:00 PM GMT
Game Details
SK Sturm Graz
Wolfsberger AC
2:30 PM GMT
Game Details
FC Magna Wr. Neustadt
FC Trenkwalder Admira
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
SV Josko Ried
SV Grodig
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
SV Salzburg
SC Rheindorf Altach
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Malmo FF
IFK Norrkoping
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Ballinamallard Utd
Glentoran
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Cliftonville
Glenavon
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Dungannon Swifts
Ballymena
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Institute
Linfield
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Portadown
Crusaders
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Warrenpoint Town
Coleraine
2:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Airbus UK
Port Talbot
1:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Carmarthen
Rhyl
1:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Newtown
Bala Town
1:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Universidad de Chile
Huachipato
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Ñublense
O'Higgins
7:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Unión Española
Universidad de Concepción
10:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Antofagasta
Municipal Iquique
12:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Sud América
Nacional
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Tacuarembo
Fénix
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Fortaleza CE
Uniautonoma
8:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Aguilas Doradas
Patriotas F.C.
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Atlético Nacional
Envigado
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Independiente Santa Fe
Alianza Petrolera
12:45 AM GMT
Game Details
Los Caimanes
Cienciano del Cusco
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Nacional
3 de Febrero
8:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Cerro Porteño
Guaraní
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Emelec
El Nacional
10:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Independiente del Valle
LDU Quito
Postp
Game Details
Aragua
Mineros
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Deportivo La Guaira
Estudiantes de Mérida
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Deportivo Anzoategui
Deportivo Petare
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Club Petrolero de Yacuiba
Bolívar
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Sport Boys Warnes
Universitario de Pando
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Blooming
Universitario de Sucre
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Shimizu S-Pulse
Kashima Antlers
9:00 AM GMT
Game Details
FC Tokyo
Urawa Red Diamonds
9:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Vantforet Kofu
Gamba Osaka
9:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Albirex Niigata
Tokushima Vortis
10:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Nagoya Grampus Eight
Kashiwa Reysol
10:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Omiya Ardija
Sagan Tosu
10:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Cerezo Osaka
10:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Vissel Kobe
Vegalta Sendai
10:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Yokohama F. Marinos
Kawasaki Frontale
10:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Santos
Carmelita
9:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Universidad de El Salvador
Santa Tecla
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Aguila
CD FAS
1:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Universidad de San Carlos
Penarol
9:35 PM GMT
Game Details
Petapa
Coatepeque
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Vida
Victoria
1:00 AM GMT
Game Details
FC Kansas City
Portland Thorns FC
ESPN2 5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Avaí
Santa Cruz FC
7:10 PM GMT
Game Details
Goianiense
Sampaio Correa-MA
7:10 PM GMT
Game Details
Náutico
América RN
7:10 PM GMT
Game Details
Paraná Clube
Bragantino
7:10 PM GMT
Game Details
Portuguesa de Desportos
Ceará
7:10 PM GMT
Game Details
ABC
Vila Nova-GO
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Luverdense
Joinville
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Necaxa
Lobos BUAP
9:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Zacatepec
Altamira
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
At. San Luis
Mérida
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Celaya
Irapuato
1:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Sarmiento de Junín
Huracán
6:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Santamarina
Unión de Santa Fe
7:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Argentinos Juniors
Gimnasia y Esgrima de Jujuy
9:15 PM GMT
Game Details
San Martín de San Juan
Instituto de Córdoba
10:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Next

Diary: Kickin ' it with Brazil's next superstars

David Hirshey Jun 17, 2014
Read

Diary: The U.S. are in like Clint

David Hirshey Jun 17, 2014
Read

Diary: Feeling Spain's pain in Salvador

David Hirshey Jun 15, 2014
Read

David Hirshey's Best Prem XI, 2013-14

Blog - Kicking and Screaming May 12, 2014
Read
 Posted by David Hirshey
Jul 7, 2014

Lessons learned in the quarterfinals

Does Brazil have game-changers on the bench? Robbie Earle and Shaka Hislop discuss.

Sometimes, like all great works of art, the beautiful game has to go through an ugly stretch before it can achieve true gorgeousness. OK, so the quarterfinals this past weekend were not the thrilling, wild rides we'd come to expect based on the mayhem of the group stages and the round of 16. As the stakes ratcheted up and the fun went down, they were replaced by a grim determination to climb those final "two steps to heaven," as Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari likes to refer to his team's mission.

But having struggled through the tournament's awkward, pimply teen phase, the semifinals now look mighty tasty, with four of soccer's most pedigreed heavyweights, two from South America and two from Europe, hoping not to stumble on their way up to the celestial podium to lift the Cup.

Neymar's injury was an accident waiting to happen

As the Brazilian poster boy for this World Cup, Neymar had carried the hopes of 200 million countrymen on his back. It is the kind of impossible pressure that would buckle most mortals, let alone a 22-year-old whose build is only slightly more formidable than Victoria Beckham's. Yet through five games, Neymar not only held up under the weight of expectations, he flourished, scoring four goals while personifying what may be the last vestige of Brazil's inimitable samba-style soccer. Which is why the broken vertebra he suffered Saturday against Colombia is all the more ironic. And tragic.

Yes, it was the direct result of Juan Camilo Zuniga ramming his knee at high speed into Neymar's back in the 87th minute. But the bone-rattling tone was set 77 minutes earlier -- see: David Luiz barging into Juan Cuadrado from behind -- and would escalate into 54 fouls (31 of them by the Selecao). For that, Brazil has only itself to blame -- along with referee Carlos Velasco Carballo. Meek or near-sighted or both, Carballo badly misjudged the level of competitive fury on the field and handed out a mere four yellow cards.

After seeing James Rodriguez knocked around in the first half, Colombia fought back, with devastating results.
After seeing James Rodriguez knocked around in the first half, Colombia fought back, with devastating results.

The game with Colombia was always going to be fraught, even more so than Brazil's preceding matches with Mexico and Chile, both of whom took the Selecao to the limit and forced them to abandon jogo bonito for jogo by any means necessary. Under Scolari, Brazil scrapped, hacked, elbowed and shirt-pulled their way into the quarterfinals, playing a rugged, long-ball game that would make Sam Allardyce proud. Only when Neymar took off on one of his pulse-quickening runs through the heart of an opposing defense did this Brazil resemble the Brazil of yore.

Now came Colombia, a young, dynamic team who possessed in James Rodriguez the breakout star of the tournament; his five goals before the quarterfinal, featuring a ridiculous swiveling screamer of a volley against Uruguay, were the most to that point in this World Cup. Scolari knew: As J-Rod goes, so goes Colombia.

Brazil vs. Germany: Tuesday, 4 ET, 9 BST
(ESPN and WatchESPN)

- Marcotti: Titans collide in the semifinals
- Honigstein: Bierhoff's technological focus
- Torre: Scolari lightens the mood

- Brewin: Battered Brazil vs. vulnerable Germany
- Smith: Jogo bonito the exception, not the rule
- 50-50 Challenge: Brazil vs. Germany
- Duarte: Brazil move past star absences
- Cox: Brazil and Germany's role reversal

Cue Big Phil's game plan, which boiled down to treating James as a human piñata whenever he came near the ball in the first half; six times Columbia's talisman was on the receiving end of a hard, cynical foul, and six times Carballo refused to brandish a yellow card. Increasingly frustrated as Brazil's reckless play went unpunished and desperate to overcome a 1-0 deficit, Colombia began to retaliate in the second half with a series of UFC-worthy challenges that sent Neymar airborne.

But Neymar being Neymar, when he crumpled to the turf under Zuniga's assault it was difficult to tell whether this was another gambit in his vast drama-queen repertoire or a genuine injury. Contrary to Zuniga's initial claim that it was just "a normal play," kneeing a player in the back is not considered routine defending unless you're John Terry. The Colombian defender is culpable of overly aggressive play but he is hardly the only one responsible for the sad and inevitable denouement to Neymar's World Cup.

Is Scolari to blame for Neymar's injury? Brazil simply got a taste of their own medicine in the quarterfinal.
Is Scolari to blame for Neymar's injury? Brazil simply got a taste of their own medicine in the quarterfinal.

So now Brazil will be missing its two most important players -- Neymar and captain Thiago Silva, who is suspended -- in Tuesday's semifinal against Germany on Tuesday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN). And for the first time in the tournament, the hosts must be considered the underdogs, no matter how fevered the atmosphere inside the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte promises to be. Bereft of Neymar's attacking brio and Silva's inspirational leadership and defensive intelligence, the Selecao are likely to struggle against Germany's pace and power. Let's hope they don't again resort to any thuggish tactics in dealing with Thomas Muller and freunde.

Forza Deutschland!

In case you haven't noticed, Germany have become the new Italy -- right before your narcoleptic eyes. Like the Azzurri did so brilliantly en route to winning five World Cups, Joachim Low's boys have mastered the art of sucking the air out of a game once they've taken the lead. It may be mind-numbingly tedious to watch, but it's ruthlessly effective, as France found out Friday.

Die Mannschaft's grinding 1-0 victory propelled them to their fourth consecutive World Cup semifinal. Given the cagey, risk-averse nature of the game, it was only fitting that the decisive goal was scored by a defender, Mats Hummels, and that it came from a dead-ball situation.

If Brazil-Colombia was end-to-end fervor, this was world-class lassitude, owing in part to the sweltering 90-degree humidity in the middle of the afternoon in Rio, but also to the high stakes of a semifinal berth. What a disappointing turnaround this dreary affair was for both teams after the jaunty and free-scoring opening games I personally witnessed in Salvador -- France cutting apart Switzerland 5-2 with great joie de vivre and Germany pummeling a Cristiano Ronaldo-powered Portugal 4-0. But both teams grew increasingly tentative as the tournament wore on, culminating in the hot messes they found themselves in with Nigeria and Algeria, respectively, in the round of 16. Talk about peaking too early.

Germany put in a defensive effort of Italian vintage in order to dump the French out of the World Cup.
Germany put in a defensive effort of Italian vintage in order to dump the French out of the World Cup.

At least Germany had the good sense to carve out a 1-0 advantage before deciding to pack it in and defend with composure and discipline. Though France huffed and puffed through 78 more leaden minutes, Les Bleus seemed to resign themselves to their fate after Hummels' goal, mustering little urgency until the dying moments, when Manuel Neuer was forced to swat away one last Karim Benzema effort.

The German goalkeeper did not find it necessary, as he did against Algeria, to come hurtling out of his area and do his best Franz Beckenbauer impression, sweeping away any dangerous balls with his feet or head. He simply stood haughtily in goal, daring France to test him. Now it is Brazil's turn, and without Neymar, I doubt that Neuer will be shaking in his lederhosen at the prospect of facing Fred and Hulk.

Penalty shootouts can be Krul

Of all the heartbreaking ways for plucky little Costa Rica to go out of the World Cup, few expected it to be in another nerve-shredding tiebreaker. Certainly the Ticos themselves didn't anticipate losing in that fashion after going a perfect five-for-five from the spot in their life-affirming round of 16 victory over Greece.

But the shootout giveth and taketh away, as any spin of soccer's roulette wheel should. And how could the Ticos know that Louis van Gaal would have a penalty-kick specialist up his starched sleeve and would audaciously choose to deploy him in the 120th minute?

Tim Krul's swagger was enough to make Louis van Gaal and the Netherlands look good.
Tim Krul's swagger was enough to make Louis van Gaal and the Netherlands look good.

The rest is World Cup history, as Newcastle's Tim Krul swaggered onto the field, all 6-foot-5 of him, and brashly informed the Costa Rica players not to waste their time taking their PKs because he already knew which direction they were going to kick and he would be there to smother their shots. Which, of course, is just what happened twice, ending Costa Rica's magic carpet ride.

I'm no fan of the Dutch -- I want to puke every time Arjen Robben extends his arms and takes flight, whether he's fouled or not -- but I have to say they deserved to win simply because they were the only team on the field bothering to attack, no matter how wasteful it proved to be. Not to take anything away from the heroic Ticos, who did their tiny nation proud, but it's tough to win when you have zero corners and exactly one shot on goal after 115 minutes.

Let's face it, Costa Rica played for penalties from the kickoff, putting 10 men behind the ball and relying on their acrobatic keeper Keylor Navas and his three best friends -- the goalposts and crossbar -- to save them. It almost worked; Navas' lightning-quick reflexes kept out everything the Dutch threw at him, and the woodwork did its job, repelling an additional three shots.

So in a sense, the gallant Ticos got what they wanted -- a game that went to penalties. They just got the wrong Dutch goalkeeper.

Messi's job just got harder

Just when it looked as if Argentina wouldn't have to field a 0-0-Lionel Messi formation against the Dutch in Wednesday's semifinal, the one player capable of reducing the burden on the Little Flea is out of the match.

When Angel Di Maria went down in a heap attempting a shot against Belgium in the first half, the several hundred exuberant Argentina fans at New York's Football Factory stopped their joyful singing and pogoing long enough to let out a collective "mi Dios!" (Oh my God!) As jubilant as they were over La Albiceleste's 1-0 lead, they instinctively knew that an injury to Di Maria played havoc with their dreams of winning their first World Cup since 1986.

"This could be a tragedy for us," said Francisco Martinez, who was draped in the blue and white flag of his country. "Next to Messi, Di Maria is our most important player." The Real Madrid star had started the tournament slowly but came to life in the round of 16 match against Switzerland, scoring the winner from Messi's defense-shredding pass in the 117th minute.

Lionel Messi won't have Angel Di Maria vs. the Dutch, but Gonzalo Higuain is capable of filling that void.
Lionel Messi won't have Angel Di Maria vs. the Dutch, but Gonzalo Higuain is capable of filling that void.

The two Argentines have a telepathic understanding, with Di Maria playing the Scottie Pippen role to Messi's Michael Jordan. Though normally operating on the flanks as a wide midfielder, Di Maria has been given the freedom by coach Alejandro Sabella to break forward and become a third attacker alongside Messi and Gonzalo Higuain when the circumstances dictate, as they did against the Swiss.

Now it's up to Di Maria's former Real teammate Higuain to be Messi's go-to guy in attack, and he couldn't have picked a better time than Saturday to emerge from his World Cup coma. In the eighth minute, Higuain got on the end of a deflected cross from Di Maria to lash in a vicious first-time shot from the edge of the area.

It was the striker's first goal of the tournament and for the time being silenced his baying critics, who wanted him dropped from the starting lineup because he had underperformed over the first four games. In the second half, with Di Maria no longer on the field, Higuain again showed his skill and power, running past three defenders and nutmegging Belgium captain Vincent Kompany before cannoning the ball off the crossbar.

The Netherlands will be a lot tougher test than the waffle-flat Belgians, but if Higuain can continue his rejuvenated play, then Argentina will have the rare luxury of being more than a one-man show.

David Hirshey

David Hirshey has been covering soccer for more than 30 years and has written about the sport for The New York Times, Time, ESPN The Magazine and Deadspin. He is the co-author of "The ESPN World Cup Companion" and played himself (almost convincingly) in the acclaimed soccer documentary "Once in a Lifetime."