Argentina gained a 4-2 penalty victory over the Netherlands to book their passage into the world cup finals on the soil of archenemies Brazil, setting up a repeat of the final of the 1990 world cup.
A tight 120 minutes of football, often dour and uninspiring, meant for their second consecutive game the Dutch needed penalties to settle their tie. Unlike against Costa Rica, though, there was no Tim Krul to pull of heroics, rather it was Argentina goalie Sergio Romero stealing all the headlines with two penalty saves.
The two world cup heavyweights locked horns in a tight cagey game, Argentina carrying the South American mantle after Brazil’s humiliation at the hands of Germany in the first semi final.
There was little to differentiate the two sides in the first, neither side able to settle on the ball for a long period. Both midfields remained particularly tight, giving nothing away.
Argentina threatened first, a swung in free kick falling to Perez, but his effort was wayward. The game remained cagey, the first real chance falling to Leo Messi a few minutes later.
Enzo Perez was keeping himself busy in the middle, and in the 15th minute he won a free kick off Ron Vlaar. Messi stepped up to the plate, but his effort sailed straight into the hands of Dutch goalie Cillessen.
Garay had an even better one in the 24th minute, a corner finding its way to him in a great position, yet he turned his header wide under pressure from Vlaar.
The Netherlands also did very little, Van Persie getting their only real chance which he spurned. A Rojo cross to an unmarked Higuain in injury time looked dangerous, but the ball was too long and an extremely forgettable half of football was brought to a close.
The second half did not improve much, more or less following the pattern of the first half in being dull and uninteresting as neither side could really gain a foothold in the game.
Poor first touches, hoofed clearances, and few chances being created was the hallmark of the game. In the situation set pieces remained the main hope of getting a goal, and Sneidjer’s wayward free kick was the first chance of the second half.
Both sides managed to get some crosses into the box, but Cilessen and Romero kept rushing off their lines to punch away.
Higuain came close for Argentina in the 75th, a Messi flick on finding its way to him, but his volley hit the side netting.
Holland came close to ending the game on the stroke of full time, but Robben delayed a tad too long on his shot, allowing Mascherano to slink back and block, sending the game into extra time.
The first half of extra time fared better than the entire 90 before, the Dutch opening upfront as they struggled to put their opponents to the sword. Louis Van Gaal brought on Huntelaar for Van Persie, with Robben threatening on a couple of occasions.
He has another dangerous cross blocked, before a fierce long range effort was saved by Romero. Argentina threatened towards the tail end of the half, but Cilessen again proved equal to the task.
Argentina lit up in the second half of extra time, putting the Dutch on the back foot as they pressed for the winner. And Palacio should have scored when a lobbed Maxi pass found him one on one with Cilessen, but he went for the header, a tame effort saved with ease.
Maxi Rodriguez also had his turn, but his volley was straight at Cillessen after good work from Messi to get in the cross.
Spot kicks were thus needed to decide the game, and Tim Krul remained on the bench as proceedings started. Cilessen was poor in the shootout, whilst Romero saved Vlaar and Sneidjer’s efforts to send Messi and his teammates to the final, their first since 1990 were they met Sunday’s opponents Germany.