Argentina reach SWC final
Lionel Messi (Supplied)
Sao Paulo - Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero saved two penalties in a shootout
with the Netherlands on Wednesday to take his country through to the
World Cup final for the first time since 1990.
As it happened: Argentina v Netherlands
Argentina beat the Dutch 4-2 in a penalty shootout after their cagey
semi-final in Sao Paulo finished goalless. They play Germany in Sunday's
final in Rio de Janeiro.
The drab match was the polar opposite of
Germany's 7-1 annihilation of Brazil in the first semi-final 24 hours
earlier. But Romero, who barely played for his Monaco club side last
season settled matters by repelling spot-kicks from Ron Vlaar and Wesley
It was the second time that Holland, who lost the 2010
final to Spain, were beaten on penalties in a World Cup semi-final. They
fell to Brazil in 1998.
"We have given everything and I'm incredibly proud of this team," Dutch star striker Arjen Robben said after.
came down to penalties and they simply did better," he told Dutch
broadcaster NOS. "To lose like this simply sucks, it hurts."
The result was particularly cruel for Vlaar, who marshalled his defence imperiously throughout the game.
had no answer to the Aston Villa centre-back's decisive interceptions,
but the Barcelona superstar can nonetheless still hope to confirm his
greatness in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday when he appears in his first World
Although reserve goalkeeper Tim Krul had saved two
penalties in Holland's shootout success against Costa Rica in the
quarter-finals, coach Louis van Gaal kept faith in Jasper Cillessen this
Romero's saves from Vlaar and Sneijder put Argentina in a
commanding position and with Messi, Ezequiel Garay and Sergio Aguero all
scoring, it was left to Maxi Rodriguez to dispatch the spot-kick that
sent Argentina into the final.
It was only Argentina's second win
over the Netherlands in nine attempts -- their first since the 1978
World Cup final -- and it enabled Messi and his team-mates to pay
appropriate homage to Argentine great Alfredo Di Stefano, who died on
Monday aged 88.
days after effectively being ruled out of the tournament with a torn
groin muscle, Nigel de Jong made a sensational return to the Dutch
midfield on a cool, overcast evening in Sao Paulo.
The AC Milan
enforcer quickly set about tracking Messi the length and breadth of the
pitch, but it was Argentina who enjoyed the best of the first half.
Messi fired a free-kick through the Dutch wall but it was stopped by Cillessen, while Ezequiel Garay headed over at a corner.
Gaal sent on Daryl Janmaat for Bruno Martins Indi at half-time, while
de Jong soldiered on until the 62nd minute before giving way for Jordy
Clasie, who came on to make his first appearance in Brazil.
steady rain began to fall, the game settled into a disjointed rhythm,
with Argentina continuing to look the more threatening side.
Perez, deputising for the injured Angel di Maria, was a steady source of
enterprise and he almost teed up Gonzalo Higuain for the opener with a
glorious cross that the Napoli man poked into the side-netting.
sent on Rodrigo Palacio and the fit-again Aguero towards the end of
normal time, but his side only made it to extra time thanks to a
sensational sliding block by Javier Mascherano to deny Robben on the
stroke of full-time.
Van Gaal had triumphed by bringing Krul on
for the penalty shootout against Costa Rica, but this time he turned to
striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who replaced the shot-shy Robin van Persie.
Holland belatedly registered a shot on target in the 99th minute, Romero saving from Robben.
Palacio and Maxi Rodriguez both squandered chances late in extra time for Argentina, but thanks to Romero, it mattered not.