Penalty pain for Dutch in anticlimactic drab draw
This match was never going to live up to the 7-1 demolition of hosts Brazil by Germany the night before, but no one was quite expecting to be put through 120 minutes, plus penalties, of such wretched football.
There were a total of five (fairly weak) shots on target throughout the whole game – four coming from World Cup second-favourites Argentina (11/10) and one from the Netherlands. They may as well just have saved everyone’s time and only had a shootout.
Louis van Gaal even failed to bring on supersub stopper Tim Krul again for the penalties, as he used his third and final switch early in extra time of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for Robin van Persie.
Instead, Jasper Cillessen, who has yet to save a shot from the spot in his whole professional career, was trusted. The Ajax keeper, though, was unimpressive, and misses from his teammates Ron Vlaar, who had a superb game in defence, and Wesley Sneijder saw his side unable to match their feat of reaching the final at the last World Cup.
New modest Manchester United manager Van Gaal even claimed he perhaps was the reason for Argentina hero Sergio Romero’s shootout saves. “I taught Romero how to stop penalties (when the duo were at AZ Alkmaar together), so that hurts,” he said. “We were the club to bring him to Europe. He was a big talent, and someone who has the qualities to do that.”
This semi-final was supposed to showcase a masterclass from the two left-footed forward magicians Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben, but both were cancelled out. Bayern Munich winger Robben attempted just one pass in the first half of normal time, while his Barcelona counterpart didn’t even manage to touch the ball in the Dutch penalty box once throughout the whole match.
It was the former, however, who perhaps came closest to getting on the scoresheet, only for Javier Mascherano to superbly block a shot from him in normal time. Messi’s best chance, meanwhile, came from a freekick, but it ended up straight in the hands of Cillessen.
Argentina did have a great chance in extra time to break the deadlock through substitute Rodrigo Palacio, however the Dutch keeper was once again able to hold on to it.
Although the South Americans have now managed to keep three cleansheets in the knockout rounds these finals (against Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands), they have yet to beat a team by more than one goal. Argentina are 21/10 not to let in a goal in 90 minutes against Germany as well.
Alejandro Sabella’s side now go up against a somewhat confident Germany (odds-on at 8/11 to win the World Cup), who smashed seven past Brazil.
These two sides have met in the final on the global stage twice before, in 1986 and 1990, with both winning one game apiece. A non-South American country has never won the World Cup when the tournament has been held in the Americas, however, so Die Mannschaft will be bidding to make history once more.
The Netherlands now face an eerie showdown with Brazil to battle for third-place.