Argentina succeed from the spot to reach the final

At 0-0 with 15 minutes of regulation time remaining, this semi-final between Holland and Argentina could not have panned out more differently to yesterday’s game. While at the corresponding time the day before Germany led 6-0, a scoreline which could have easily been 8-2 by that point given the opportunities, both Argentina and Holland had barely mustered a chance to take the lead.

Suddenly, Argentina worked the ball wonderfully down the right and into a chance. Gonzalo Higuain lunged ahead of Ron Vlaar to connect with Rodrigo Palacio’s cross after Lionel Messi had been crunched to the floor earlier in the move, but the shot was just wide. It could easily have gone in, and as Higuain was ruing the miss on the ground he saw the assistant referee signaling for offside. As the two eyed each other off, the raised flag read like a message to Argentina: “Good luck beating this Dutch defence, and when you do, you’ve still got to beat me.”

Nearing the end of the 90 minutes, you could sense Messi beginning to lurk whenever Argentina were on the ball. Constantly within passing range of a team-mate, he would silently demand it despite the 2, 3 or 4 defenders around him.

As injury time began, Arjen Robben was put through on his left foot and seemed destined to break Argentine hearts, but Javier Mascherano lunged in just as the Dutchman had pulled the trigger, sending the game over the line for a corner and into extra-time.

When Robin van Persie was substituted in the first period of extra-time he handed the captain’s armband to Robben, who must’ve been delighted because it meant there was no higher authority to blast him for going on one of his trademark runs with the ball. He would block out his team-mates’ plea for a pass and just focus on beating as many opposition players as possible. He was so eager to be the hero that passing the ball was further down his priority list than diving.

The late, desperate flourish that always comes at the end of extra-time favoured Argentina initially; Palacio could, and perhaps should, have looped a header over Holland keeper Jasper Cillessen after Messi’s futsal flick penetrated the wall of orange in front of him, then it was Maxi Rodriguez who couldn’t get any real purchase on the volley at the end of a beautiful Messi cross.

Louis van Gaal chose not to bring on reserve keeper Tim Krul late in extra-time for the penalty shootout, as he did in the quarter final, as all 3 substitutions had already been used.

And so it would be decided from the penalty spot. Robben apparently vowed he would never take a penalty again after having one saved in extra-time in the 2012 Champions League Final defeat to the mighty Blues, but surely he would have to take responsibility as stand-in captain and put the team ahead of his own past.

The Dutch went first. Ron Vlaar, who’d played such a brilliant game in the centre of defence, had his shot saved by Argentine keeper Sergio Romero low to his left.

Messi stepped up and sent Cillessen the wrong way to consolidate the advantage.

Robben indeed broke his own promise to nobly try to put his side on the board, and duly did with a shot that found the bottom corner.

Ezequiel Garay was next for Argentina and almost broke the back of the net with his blast down the middle to make it 2-1.

The experienced Wesley Sneijder’s shot, which was not hit as he would have liked, was spectacularly saved by Romero, fast becoming the new star of Argentina’s campaign.

Sergio Aguero then snuck his penalty under Cillessen, which might have been saved by Krul, putting monumental pressure on Dirk Kuyt to score and keep his side in it, which he did.

So it would be Rodriguez, a player in the Argentine shootout loss to Germany in the 2006 quarter-finals, to get the chance to send his country into their first final since 1990. Despite Cillessen getting a hand to the ball, it careered off the underside of the bar and over the line.

Now for Sunday’s final, Monday morning our time, where Argentina will be looking for a different result to the 1-0 Germany win in the 1990 final. It’s hard to see a result where Germany don’t win, however, and as much as the stage is set for Messi to make his claim to sit alongside Pele and Maradona by starring in the final, I think the Germans will prevail.

About Tom Riordan

Tom Riordan is in his second year of a Bachelor of Journalism at Swinburne University. He loves all sports, and plays for Brunswick Cricket Club. He supports the Western Bulldogs and can be found on weekends among half a dozen others in Q38 on the top level of the MCC.


  1. Dennis Gedling says


    Dire game but that’s what happens when Holland decide to park the bus. 0 goals in 240 minutes of football and some still want to think they deserved to be in the final? Van Gaal said in the press conference that he asked two players to take penalties first and they declined so Vlaar stepped up. Those two players should be ashamed. The best takers go first to put pressure on the opposition.

    Mascherano was a beast and the burst of pace to just get a foot in to deny Diver Dan was brilliant. Let’s hope Monday morning is better than previous finals in recent times.

  2. Gregor Lewis says

    Smooth work Tom.
    Even made the shambles of a ‘contest’ interesting.

    I hope you’re right about Germany, because it might mean some football got played.
    I fear an ugly stepsister of a spectacle though … With perhaps a glass slipper moment for Messi.

    Oh well …

    Looking forward to your events breakdown on Monday!
    Great work lad.


  3. Even the “dramatic penalty shootout” was barely interesting.
    The better side is through.

  4. Rick Kane says

    Good write up Tom. You have captured the sense of the game really well.

    I thought it was an excellent game.

    The Netherlands game plan is to smother the will of the opposition, force them into unnecessary chances and move the ball forward quickly on the break. Against a quality side like Argentina (and Costa Rica) it was a lot harder to force the break. Likewise, Argentina was measured enough to take their time to find the crack in the Oranje defence. As the clock ticked down the tension built. The fact that neither Argentina nor the Dutch could exploit the other’s style says a lot about how competitive and tight this game was.

    Netherlands problems lay particularly at the feet of van Persie, who did not do nearly enough in this game or the last couple. That left a heavy workload to Robben and Sneijder and in the end it was too much for them.

    Well done to Argentina. They deserve to go on.

    Martin Tyler summed up the irony of the penalty shoot out nicely when he observed that Argentina’s goalie, Romero learned his skill under Dutch coach, van Gaal’s tutelage.


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