World Cup Day 23: Shootout sends Argentina to Germany clash

It was powerhouse vs powerhouse as South American juggernauts Argentina came up against Europe’s historic Oranje.

With Germany already waiting in the final, the Netherlands and Argentina would battle to decide who would have the impossible task of toppling the Germans.

After the explosive meeting between Brazil and Germany, this game would need to be spectacular to come anywhere close.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Right from the off it was evident that this game wouldn’t be as action-packed as the previous semifinal.

Louis Van Gaal set his Dutch side up with their typical five at the back, and an Argentinian lineup packed full of defensive midfielders (and sorely missing Di Maria) couldn’t break through them.

The first half passed in a blur of failed attack after failed attack.

Neither side improved much in the second half – Argentina, who were showing more intent to actually go and try to win the match, were thwarted time and time again by a resilient Dutch side.

Robben and co. were uncharacteristically toothless on the counter attack, and the full time whistle brought an end to an extremely predictable (and rather boring) 90 minutes of semifinal action.

It was now do or die time – like so many other knockout games this World Cup, it was primed to explode into life in extra time.

But just like regulation time, the 30 additional minutes failed to provide anything meaningful.

With a spot in the World Cup final on the line, Argentina and the Netherlands would contest a penalty shootout.

The Dutch were no strangers to penalties, having relied on them just one game prior to advance over Costa Rica. They would be hoping that the experience in the previous shootout would aid them.

Their hopes were quickly smashed.

Aston Villa defender Ron Vlaar stepped up first…and fired a shot right at goalkeeper Sergio Romero. Lionel Messi (of course) dispatched the next spot kick, and just like that Argentina had the result in their grasp.

Romero came up big again to save the third Dutch penalty, this one from Wesley Sneijder, and Argentinian veteran Maxi Rodriguez converted the fourth consecutive penalty for his country, sending them through to the World Cup final.

For the Dutch, it was a disappointing way to cap what started as a phenomenal World Cup. Their dismantling of Spain and brilliant showing in Group B proved to be their peak – they started fantastically, but like many teams have in the past, they peaked far too early.

Argentina are a different story altogether. Messi and co. started slow, winning games by single-goal margins, and they’ve still yet to hit top form. In fact, they’ve hardly even looked like a cohesive team.

They’ll come up against a Germany team that is coming to life at the perfect time, and Argentina will need to have saved their best showing for last if they’re to claim this trophy.

Lionel Messi in particular will be having sleepless nights – he is now one game away from the ultimate prize. The four-time Ballon D’or winner has won everything possible with Barcelona, but his detractors will always point to his lack of international success.

If he can lift the World Cup trophy on Sunday, he’ll go down as the greatest player of all time. He just needs to perform the small feat of carrying his country to victory over the best team in the world. Simple.

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