World Cup 2014: Day 29
Argentina needed penalties to book their place against Germany in Sunday’s World Cup final, as they failed to overcome the Netherlands in normal time. In contrast to the game 24 hours earlier, in which Germany smashed Brazil 7-1, both teams seemed more concerned with not losing this encounter, Holland looking especially defensive again. The Dutch needed penalties to book their place in the semi-final, and at times in São Paulo it looked like Van Gaal had sent his team out with the same result in mind. Nigel Jong, who had earlier been ruled out of the rest of the tournament, made a shock return to midfield, where he was given the job of sticking to Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi. The former Manchester City man took to the job very well, giving Messi hardly any chances in an uneventful first half, although he did have one chance to test the Dutch defence with a free-kick when Ron Vlaar brought down Enzo Perez, but Cillessen was equal to the effort.
The only other action of note saw Javier Mascherano go down, appearing knocked out, after a clash of heads with Georginio Wijnaldum, but despite appearing to be concussed he was given the all clear to continue by the Argentinian doctors. After the break, Argentina continued to threaten, Lavezzi trying his luck only to see Villa defender Ron Vlaar block his effort. Higuaín then went close as he broke free, only to poke his effort into the side netting, although the linesman incorrectly flagged for offside with many of the crowd thinking it was in. The South American side threw on Sergio Agüero, making his first appearance since injury, in an attempt to avoid extra time, but the Dutch defence continued to hold firm, Vlaar the highlight. At the other end, Mascherano showed he was suffering no ill effects from the earlier clash of heads as he produced arguably the tackle of the game to deny Arjen Robben. Into extra time the Dutch threw on Klaas-Jan Huntelaar as they hoped to avoid a second penalty shoot out in succession. Both sides had several half chances, but neither could break the deadlock as extra-time ended in stalemate. The introduction of Huntelaar meant Van Gaal was unable to bring on Tim Krul, as he had done masterfully in the previous round. Much was made of this, along with the fact that Dutch keeper Cillessen had never saved a penalty in his professional career, but it was the tactical decision to select Vlaar to take the first penalty that seemed to alter the swing of the game, as his effort was easily saved by Romero. The Argentine keeper also kept out Wesley Sneijder’s effort, and when Maxi Rodriguez stepped up knowing a goal would send his team through, he opted for power, Cillessen getting a hand to the ball but having to watch on as it still nestled in the back of the net. It could be argued it was a victory for football, as of the two teams Argentina seemed to show more urgency to win the game. They now face a rampant Germany in the final on Sunday. Messi has yet to show anything like his best, but it’s hard not to feel it will need a performance of that magnitude to give his side any hint of a chance against the European side. Netherlands, meanwhile, must pick themselves up once more for a third-place play-off against Brazil, who will still be reeling from the manner of their defeat and keen to make amends on home soil.Share this: