Recap: Netherlands vs. Argentina

 

The Sports Network

Sao Paulo, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Argentina reached its fifth World Cup final on Wednesday after topping the Netherlands, 4-2, in a penalty kick shootout following a 0-0 draw in 120 minutes of play at the Arena de Sao Paulo.

Tuesday's semifinal saw an absurd eight goals scored in 90 minutes, while Wednesday's fixture was a much more tactical affair that was decided by a pair of saves from Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero in the shootout.

Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen failed to save any of Argentina's four penalty kicks as Netherlands head coach Louis van Gaal decided not to use goalkeeper Tim Krul in the shootout as he did in the quarterfinal win over Costa Rica.

"It's the most terrible scenario to lose on penalties. It's simply a matter of luck and we did not lose today," Van Gaal said. "In a tournament scenario, you need to score more than one goal than the opposition during the game - and we didn't do that. But not only that, we didn't create many chances in this match, far less than any other game here."

Argentina will now face Germany in the World Cup final at the Maracana on Sunday, while the Netherlands squares off with Brazil in the third-place match on Saturday.

"The final is a one-off game and anything could happen, as luck is also an important element," Romero said following Wednesday's win. "Playing Germany will be difficult, but our objective since the first day of training has been to reach the final. Tonight we celebrate, from tomorrow we'll think about Germany and the final."

The first chance for either side on Wednesday came in the 14th minute when Lionel Messi drove a dangerous free kick straight at Cillessen from 20 yards, while the South American outfit threatened 10 minutes later when a corner kick from Ezequiel Lavezzi found the head of Gonzalo Higuain, whose effort sailed over the net.

Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder lined up a dangerous free kick from 25 yards early in the second half after Arjen Robben drew a foul, but Sneijder's shot was well over the crossbar and didn't trouble Romero.

Daryl Janmaat cut out a dangerous chance for Argentina in the 58th minute when his header prevented Higuain from turning the ball on goal from 10 yards, while the Dutch nearly stole the win in stoppage time as Robben broke through the back line and had his shot blocked by a last-ditch challenge from Argentina's Javier Mascherano, sending the match to extra time.

The Dutch failed to put a shot on target in the first 90 minutes, and it wasn't until an effort from Robben in the 99th minute that Romero was called into action.

In the 115th minute Argentina substitute Rodrigo Palacio had a golden chance to claim the win for his team when he got in behind the Dutch defense but was only able to put a weak header on frame from a good position.

Van Gaal decided not to use Krul in the shootout as he did in the win over Costa Rica, and the coach watched as Cillessen failed to save any of Argentina's four spot kicks.

Romero, meanwhile, stopped Ron Vlaar's shot on the first kick of the shootout, while Sneijder's effort was also saved, allowing Maxi Rodriguez to fire home the winning penalty kick.

"It was a tough and even match, probably deserving to be a draw, but I thought we had better chances over the 120 minutes," Argentina head coach Alejandro Sabella said. "We won the penalties, if they'd won the penalties, I'd say the same. I'm delighted with the professionalism of the players, they've given us a great platform for the final."

Game Notes

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