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World Cup 2014

Netherlands 0 Argentina 0 (Argentina win 4-2 on pen): Highlights and key battles

Published on Jul 10, 2014 7:35 AM

The second semi-final of Brazil 2014 kicked off just 24 hours after the one before it, but could not have been more different. While the Germany-Brazil showdown was a goal fest, this was more of a snooze fest, goalless until the end and with real chances at goal coming only late on in regular time.

Argentina won the penalty shootout 4-2 thanks to two saves from keeper Sergio Romero, booking a spot in the Maracana final against Germany.

Both sides seemed preoccupied with snuffing out each other's star players - Argentina's Lionel Messi and the Netherlands' Arjen Robben - that they failed to, or were unable to create much potent attacking chances for themselves.

The game for long looked destined for penalty kicks, and Louis Van Gaal will be left to wonder what might have been if he had saved one last substitution for Tim Krul.


- Argentina began the match looking bright down the right flank through Ezequiel Lavezzi, although most of his crosses ended up being ineffective. Messi and Robben were largely silenced throughout the match, with the first shot bearing any resemblance to a goal came only in the 75th minute. A run by Enzo Perez down the right sends in a great cross to find Gonzalo Higuain, but the chance is squandered when the striker sent it wide of the post.

- Robben finally breaks away in literally the last minute of regular time and is through on goal, but takes one too many touches and allows Javier Mascherano to perform a brilliant tackle to scurry the ball away from danger. The Argentinian had been solid in midfield for his side, soldiering on despite going down after a hard clash of heads earlier in the game.

- Rodrigo Palacio threatened to break the deadlock in extra-time, getting behind Dutch defense but opts to head the ball - a little too gently - rather than try for a volley. Sends the ball right into Dutch keeper Jasper Cillessen's hands.

- Spotkicks: Romero gives Argentina a headstart by saving the first from Ron Vlaar, then another from Wesley Sneijder. Cillessen, who has never saved a penalty kick in his entire professional career, continues that unflattering run.

Key battles

- Vlaar v Argentinian attack

The Aston Villa centreback was rock solid holding the defence together, putting a halt to attacks in open play and from setpieces. Interceptions were well-timed, took on Messi, and should take bulk of the credit for helping the Netherlands keep a clean sheet until the shootout.

- Robben v Argentinian defence

Mascherano was on Robben's case right from the start, depriving him of touches with many big plays and Demichelis did a good job of shutting down space for Robben.
Zabaleta also did some work in preventing the fleet-footed Dutch player from enjoying his usual runs. 

Man of the match

Ron Vlaar

Was the first to take to the spot for the penalty shootout, and despite having his attempt saved by Romero, was still the best player on the pitch over 120 minutes.

Up until the 115th minute, he had won 100 per cent of his tackles, aerial duels made 11 clearances and six interceptions with a 92 per cent pass accuracy. Numbers don't lie.

Paris Saint Germain could have got a lot more by paying a lot less if they had called Vlaar up instead of David Luiz.

What this result means

Plain and simple: Messi in the Maracana. He will lead his team to face the rampant Germany, who would probably have been taking a second dip in their jacuzzis while watching Argentina slog out a result for 120 minutes.