8 July 2014 18:20
Javier Mascherano has called for Argentina to keep their emotions in check ahead of the FIFA World Cup semi-final against the Netherlands.
The two-time winners are in the last four for the first time in 24 years, when they progressed to the final and lost 1-0 to Germany in 1990.
Revenge for that defeat could be on the agenda if they overcome the Dutch, although the prospect of tackling bitter South American rivals Brazil at Rio’s Maracana on Sunday is even more mouth-watering.
Mascherano’s combative qualities in midfield have been in evidence during the back-to-back 1-0 wins over Switzerland and Belgium during the knockout stages.
Ahead of another potentially gruelling outing against Louis van Gaal’s team, the Barcelona man is keen to keep a lid on expectations.
“We’ve been fighting for this for so long and now we’ve done it,” Mascherano told FIFA.com on Argentina’s semi-final berth. “Of course we’re delighted, but we need to turn that into confidence.
“We need to remember that we’re one match away from playing in a World Cup final and that we haven’t made history yet.”
Mascherano’s club-mate Lionel Messi scored four times in three group-stage victories when Argentina’s other star names largely failed to fire.
While happy to see Messi’s exceptional quality shining on the biggest stage, Mascherano was pleased to see more of a team display following Gonzalo Higuain’s early opener against Belgium in the quarter-finals.
“Leo has rescued us in a few matches but we can’t just rely on him,” he said. “The team should be there to support him just as we were against Belgium, when he controlled the game with everyone’s help.
“That’s what we’re aiming for. Even though we know we have great individual players, the team comes first.”
Huge numbers of Argentina fans are expected to converge on Sao Paulo for Wednesday’s semi-final, which coincides with the country’s independence day.
Right-back Pablo Zabaleta paid tribute to the support Alejandro Sabella’s team have received throughout their time in Brazil.
“Argentina fans have been fantastic, we can feel when we go out on the field that there are so many Argentinians there cheering us on, singing and it’s great,” he told reporters.
“This is what Argentinian supporters are all about. They make you feel very proud so this group is trying to give them a massive triumph. This is massive for us.”